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Making sense of Brackenfell High School clashes: Here's what you need to know

10 November 2020 - 10:25 By cebelihle bhengu
A fight breaks out between Brackenfell community members and protesting EFF members outside Brackenfell High School in the Western Cape.
A fight breaks out between Brackenfell community members and protesting EFF members outside Brackenfell High School in the Western Cape.
Image: Esa Alexander

Brackenfell High School in the Western Cape is a talking point across the country as scores of South Africans weigh in on a confrontation which took place outside the school on Monday.

EFF supporters demonstrated outside the school after it emerged that parents had organised an unofficial private matric ball which was attended exclusively by white pupils and two teachers. The school had cancelled the official event due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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One of the event's organisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Sunday Times Daily that the event was not designed to exclude black pupils.

Here's what you should know:

The protests 

EFF supporters arrived outside the school to protest against the matric ball and alleged racism at the school.

In videos shared online, angry parents can be seen confronting the red berets, leading to a violent altercation. Rocks were later thrown between the two groups.

Police used stun grenades to disperse the protesters. At least one person was arrested.

In videos shared by TimesLIVE, parents can be heard telling protesters: “Come here. We are not scared of you!”

Western Cape government responds 

Western Cape education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond told Sunday Times Daily that the two teachers who attended the event were invited as guests.

The province's education MEC, Debbie Schäfer, condemned the violence from parents and EFF protesters. She said matric pupils had been through a lot and should not be subjected to a confrontation of this nature.

“I am deeply disturbed by the violent clashes that occurred outside Brackenfell High School this morning, over a private matric celebration organised by some parents of learners who attend the school,” she said in a statement.

“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 also not the solution to solving disagreements.”

EFF and SAHRC speak 

The SA Human Rights Commission on Monday also condemned both the violence and the allegations that preceded it.

“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 SA’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 SA where all are equal, free and are treated with dignity,” the commission said.

The EFF issued a statement on Monday, condemning “the attacks conducted by armed white racists against EFF members who were protesting peacefully”.

The party said the community members displayed “white arrogance” and condemned the discharging of firearms.

It threatened to “descend on Brackenfell in its entirety”.

Cyril Ramaphosa denounces violence

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday described the events which occurred at the school as unfortunate. He also condemned the violence and allegations of racism.

“It is the right of every South African to engage in peaceful protest, and any actions to suppress the right to freedom of expression, particularly through violence and intimidation, must be roundly condemned.” 

Ramaphosa urged South Africans to ensure that their actions do not undermine the values of nonracialism.

Social media reactions:

Social media was strongly divided on the incident, with some condemning the violence  and others supported the EFF's protest on alleged racism.

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.