SAHRC condemns Brackenfell clashes but is disappointed at allegations

09 November 2020 - 21:18
Racial tensions in the Brackenfell community reached boiling point after the EFF protested against alleged racism at Brackenfell High School.
Racial tensions in the Brackenfell community reached boiling point after the EFF protested against alleged racism at Brackenfell High School.
Image: Esa Alexander

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has condemned the violence that erupted outside Brackenfell High School, in the Western Cape, on Monday.

Riot police were called as EFF supporters clashed with parents in the wake of an all-white matric party in October. At least one person was arrested.

In a statement on Monday evening the SAHRC said:

“We have seen on news media the eruption of a violent confrontation between people said to be parents of learners at the school and members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) outside the school premises. These unfortunate events follow reports that two teachers from the school attended a private matric function, which only included white learners and their parents.

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“The commission is deeply disappointed by the violence as well as the allegations that preceded it. The SAHRC is shocked to learn that in this day and age a racially segregated private event was held for matric learners from the school. More disappointingly, is the fact that this event was attended by their parents and two teachers from the school.

“The alleged holding of a 'whites only' event, if true, is also strongly condemned. No-one should be allowed to bring back racial segregation to this country. The deep racial divisions of South Africa’s apartheid and colonial past cannot be healed while children are socialised separately on the basis of race and thus, as a nation, we will never be able to forge a South Africa where all are equal, free and are treated with dignity.

“The commission condemns the violence, especially as it occurred in full view of young people who should be preparing and dedicating themselves for end-of-year examinations that are expected to be difficult due to the interruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde and education MEC Debbie Schäfer visited Brackenfell high school on November 10 2020 after protests outside the school premises led to violent confrontations a day earlier. A group of about fifty community members stood nearby the blocked road to the school. On November 9 2020, EFF members were protesting against alleged racism at the school when a violent confrontation ensued between them and a group of community members.

“The commission has on numerous occasions called on communities to exercise their right to protest within constitutional and legal limits, peacefully and unarmed. The conduct seen on television of one of the men repeatedly beating with a stick a black woman in EFF uniform, is beyond shocking and we urge the police to trace the man and charge him, among others, with assault.

“The inciting incident, though it should never have occurred in the first place, should have been dealt with by the authorities including the national and provincial departments of basic education. Learners should not have been exposed to the violence and racial tensions that played out in front of their school.

“The commission calls for swift action in investigating the conduct of the two teachers who allegedly attended the racially segregated matric event and the commission will play an appropriate role within its mandate to promote, protect and monitor human rights, coming out of this event.”

Cape Town provincial education MEC Debbie Schäfer earlier condemned the brawl.

“I am deeply disturbed by the violent clashes ... I strongly condemn both the actions of the EFF members and those parents outside the school who used violence to address their concerns. Violent attacks are simply not acceptable and will in no way benefit our learners. Violence is not the solution to solving disagreements.”

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