Members of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political party were attacked by White parents and residents outside the Brackenfell High School in Cape Town on Monday during protests over a “whites–only” party that was reportedly organized by some students of the school.
According to news24, protesters gathered at the school demanding the suspension of two teachers who also attended the party. Some reports on social media alleged Black students weren’t invited to the graduation event.
Tensions, however, flared up as videos on social media as well as local news outlets showed a group of White people – allegedly parents of some of the students – attacking the Black demonstrators and demanding they leave the school premises while hurling insults at them, the Associated Press reported.
Following the disturbances, South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, released a statement on Tuesday condemning the violence. He also called for the school – which has not had a Black teacher since 1994 – to be investigated amid racism allegations.
“The EFF members were protesting against alleged racism at the school. 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,” he said.
“What happened today brings back hurtful memories of a past we should never seek to return to.”
In a statement on Monday, the EFF claimed the protest was peaceful until their members were attacked by “armed white racists.”
“It must be further noted that since 1994, there has never been a single black teacher at Brackenfell High School, which reveals how entrenched racism is at the school at an institutional level,” the statement said.
The statement added: “The attacks in Brackenfell are yet another confirmation that racists are emboldened under the current regime. It confirms our long-held belief that peace without justice is futile, and that as a nation, we have forgiven people who have no remorse for the oppression they subjected our people too.
“Our laws are undermined, and law-officials are bullied by white-racists, who have decided that there is no black government or black authority that can threaten their grip on sections of our society,” the statement said.
The EFF also said the “terror attacks will not go unanswered” adding they’ll descend on Brackenfell like how they did in Senekal in October when two men on trial for allegedly killing a farmer appeared in court, Eyewitness News reported.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) also released a statement condemning the “whites-only” party and called for investigations into the conduct of the teachers who were in attendance.
“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.”
The SAHRC also expressed their dismay and shock to “learn that in this day and age a racially segregated private event was held for matric learners from the school.”
“More disappointing 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 SAHRC said.
No action against the two teachers
Responding to calls for the teachers to be suspended, Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the department could not reprimand and punish the teachers in question, as it was a private event the school had nothing to do with.
“The school had nothing to do with the organisation or management of that event. It was not supported, funded or endorsed by the school in any way. The school did not hold a matric ball this year owing to COVID-19 concerns,” said Schäfer.
“The Western Cape Education Department cannot and will not take action against educators who were invited as guests and attended a private event, which they did not organise, and had no prior knowledge of the attendees. We are also not in the business of prescribing who people must invite to private events outside of school property.”
In a letter to parents on Sunday, the school management again stressed the event “was a private party organized by the parents” and “did not fall under the control of the school,” BBC reported. They also said 42 out of the school’s 254 graduating class attended the party, and the school does not “condone or accommodate any events that are exclusively reserved for certain groups.”