Economic Freedom Fighters members and members of the Congress of SA Students protested against a High Court in Pretoria ruling which set aside a Gauteng education department decision to admit 55 English-speaking pupils into the school just two day before school began.
This infuriated parents on both sides, leading to the protest. The protest resulted in tyres being burnt on the roads and stun grenades and rubber bullets being used by police to disperse the crowd.
Protesters said their fight was for education and democracy, which has been a constant battle in South Africa post 1994, and one had even made death threats to any “white person coming out of the school”.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said yesterday the 55 pupils turned away from the Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging have been taken in at the Riverside High School, about 15 km away. Vanderbijlpark resident and father Dawid Jacobs said parents feared for the safety of pupils at Overvaal.
“I think the protest is very unfair. “A judgment has been made and the EFF is still protesting. This is unfair to kids,” said Jacobs. Matilda Lekonyane, parent of a Hoërskool Overvaal pupil, said although the protest was needed, the incitement of violence was unnecessary.
“The problem is that these protesters want change to happen with immediate effect and that is impossible,” said Lekonyane.
“They are protesting at the wrong place. The children are now scared to go out.
“They should have gone to the department of education to solve this matter.” Her Grade 8 child has been in Afrikaans schools since preschool and “had been receiving quality education”, she said, adding that she spoke the language fluently.
Resident Chane Frylinck claimed to have witnessed two children suffering from panic attacks when they saw the crowd upon their arrival to school. Video footage also emerged showing a father being beaten by protesters.
Frylinck said while everyone had a right to education, disrupting someone else’s right to education was unfair. Police gathered outside the school to observe protesters who were burning tyres. But when things took a turn for the worse, they were forced to fire rubber bullets into the crowd. A number of people were seen bleeding and lying on the ground from being shot.
Police made a number of arrests at the scene. While protesting outside the school, a Cosas member who didn’t want to be named added: “We are here to tell the people to start to accept black people. We speak about democracy in South Africa yet they are still racist here. They don’t accept black people. “If we see a white guy coming from outside this school, we are going to kill them,” he threatened.
“We are tired! Tomorrow we are going to occupy this school. If they are ready to kill us then let them kill us!” he shouted.
The interview was interrupted when EFF and Cosas members continuously burned tyres and police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.