Brackenfell High violence brings back hurtful memories of SA's past - Ramaphosa

'We should not allow what has transpired at Brackenfell High School to be used by any groupings who want to cause racial polarisation,' President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

A screengrab of EFF protesters confronting members of the public outside the Brackenfell High School in Cape Town on 9 November 2020. Picture: @FloydShivambu/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday morning called the violent scenes outside Brackenfell High School in the Western Cape “regrettable”.

“At this most important and difficult time for matriculants, not only at Brackenfell High School but around the country, the spectacle of parents and protesters coming to blows at the school gate is deeply unfortunate,” President Ramaphosa said.

Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) protested outside the school on Monday, demanding that the Western Cape Education Department take action against two teachers who attended a private matric party recently. The party was arranged privately because the school was not having a matric ball. But it caused controversy when it was only attended by white pupils and their parents.

Videos showed people physically attacking each other and police firing stun grenades. The EFF said that when members arrived at the school for an oversight visit on Monday, they were blocked by parents. One person was seen hitting an EFF woman member over her back with a baseball bat-shaped piece of wood. At least one person was arrested for public violence.

“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,” the president said. “What happened today brings back hurtful memories of a past we should never seek to return to.”

The president added that allegations of racism levelled against the school needed to be urgently investigated.

“We should be ever mindful of the extent to which our actions, both publicly and in private, undermine the cherished principle of non-racialism upon which our democracy was founded,” Ramaphosa added in the statement.
The President urged everyone concerned to exercise restraint and to resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue.

“We should not allow what has transpired at Brackenfell High School to be used by any groupings who want to cause racial polarisation,” he said.

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer said on Monday: “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.”

On Monday, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) condemned the violent scenes that played out outside the high school.

The commission said it was disappointed by the violence as well as the allegations that preceded it. It added that learners should not have been exposed to the violence and racial tensions that played out in front of their school.

Meanwhile, the EFF said it would return to Brackenfell High School again on Tuesday.

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