The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says it will conduct a preliminary investigation into Somerset West Private School after a photo emerged of three matric pupils allegedly making “Nazi salutes”.
Speaking to News24, SAHRC commissioner Andre Gaum, who is responsible for basic education, said it had not received a formal complaint but that it would “assess [the situation] and investigate the facts”.
“[We will] then come up with the necessary approach to deal with it, which can take various forms – it can be in the form of a directive, it can also be alternative dispute resolution or we could take the matter to the Equality Court,” Gaum added.
He said the SAHRC would make an assessment on the matter and how to take the issue forward.
Earlier on Wednesday, the school released a statement after the incident caused outrage on social media.
The school said the pose was actually a “Roman salute”, News24 reported.
The school’s principal, CM Coezter, said in the statement: “We do not promote or support any particular political or religious views. Learners are encouraged to develop as individuals, think freely and to express themselves freely, provided that such expression does not impair the dignity of others.
“It has come to our attention that there have been objections to a matric photo where some learners give what appears to be a Roman salute. While we don’t believe that the learners intended to offend anyone, we have removed the photograph from the website.”
After News24 enquired about the photo, the school took it down.
Outrage over the photo was evident on social media.
Twitter user Luke Waltham tweeted: “This is seriously harmful and concerning since this salute is full of hate and bigotry. South Africa, we need to do more. We must make it known that we do not accept Nazism at all.”
Guy McDonald also tweeted, “How is this an acceptable cover photo for your website Somerset West Private School? Or are you indeed Nazi empathisers?”