Protest action once again threatened to disrupt exams at Brackenfell High School in the Western Cape, after demonstrations by the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC). The party’s supporters descended on the school on Wednesday morning.
According to reports, however, chaos quickly erupted, with police having to use stun grenades to disperse crowds.
Police trying to arrest a resident of Brackenfell outside the high school where the two groups clashed @TimesLIVE @SowetanLIVE @BDliveSA @EFFWesternCape_ @DBE_SA @EFFSouthAfrica pic.twitter.com/mKS58En86F
— Esa Alexander (@ezaap) November 9, 2020
Chaos erupted as police used stun grenades to disperse a group of PAC protesters marching towards Brackenfell High School. #Brackenfellhighschool#Brackenfell#PAC
Video: @henkpix / @AfriNewsAgency https://t.co/N2EylJm7IV pic.twitter.com/PJLbAZzCfc
— IOL News (@IOL) November 18, 2020
Protest action has taken place outside the school since last week, with tensions high between residents and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members, who were the first to demonstrate.
EFF member Sibongile Nkasayi laid an assault charge later against a man captured on video hitting her with a bat.
The demonstrations came after an alleged private, all-white event was held by the school’s parents. Black students claimed they were not informed nor invited to the function.
However, the function’s exclusivity was denied by community members, saying the event was open to everyone.
In a statement issued on 8 November, the governing body slammed the “factually incorrect media coverage” of the private event, saying it was wrong to refer to the function as a “matric farewell”.
It explained that due to Covid-19, the matric dance for 2020 was cancelled.
The “masked ball” was a private party arranged by matric pupils’ parents. Only 42 out of this year’s 254 matric pupils were present, the school said.
“Brackenfell High School is an inclusive, integrated school that promotes non-racialism and reconciliation.”
The school approached the court and tried to interdict the EFF from protesting, but failed to secure the interdict.
The EFF’s protest and subsequent clash between members, parents and parents prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to label the incident as “deeply regrettable”, and called on all parties involved to act responsibly.
This was especially important, Ramaphosa said, as it was a difficult time for matric pupils across the country, who were writing their final senior certificate examinations.
“What happened today [Monday] brings back hurtful memories of a past we should never seek to return to.”
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) called for an investigation into the contentious event.
The commission also slammed the violent nature of the demonstrations, calling on protesters and residents to demonstrate peacefully and unarmed.
“The deep racial divisions of South Africa’s apartheid and colonial past cannot be healed whilst 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.
A statement issued by Brackenfell High School’s governing body last week said it was distancing itself from the “incidence of violence that transpired around our school”, saying the “unfortunate” protest actions “do not represent the value that we embrace and teach”.
The governing body said the school could not take responsibility for the private function, which was organised without the school’s involvement.
“However, we acknowledge and deeply regret the pain that it caused our learned, especially our learners of colour.”
The school said it was committed to participating in future discussions with students and parents, but called for peace while exams were underway.
It appealed to parents, community members and “people from outside our community” to refrain from partaking in any violence or aggression around the school premises.
The EFF confirmed on Tuesday it would reignite its protests at the school on Friday.
Fighters and Ground Forces of the EFF in the Western Cape are ready to honor the invitation on Friday at Brackenfell High School at 10h00.
— Economic Freedom Fighters (@EFFSouthAfrica) November 18, 2020
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) November 17, 2020
Attempts to reach police in the Western Cape have so far proved unsuccessful.
Updates to follow as more information is made available.
Compiled by Nica Richards