Public backlash over the Brackenfell High School Whites-only matric celebration continues. Equal Education says the incident is one manifestation of the racism found in schools across the Western Cape.
“The fact that the white kids didn’t see anything wrong with a “whites only” party at the school says a lot about the kind of future Brackenfell students should look forward to. The whole scandal is racially motivated in a way that it makes POC (people of colour) look and feel less of humans, which is completely wrong. POC were protesting against racism outside of Brackenfell High and were still attacked which is very disturbing. It is a shame that in our democratic dispensation, you still get such racially motivated acts. Personally, the principal should be held accountable, as he is the leader and is the one to promote a non-racial environment,” says Equal Education learner member (Equaliser) Mihlali Mateta.
The rights organisation says the fight for equal and quality education requires the dismantling of institutional racism (racist policies and practices) being experienced by Black learners (learners of colour) at formerly white public and private schools.
It is describing Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer’s response to the incident as “tone deaf, disturbing and shows deliberate ignorance of what racism and discrimination is and how it plays out in schools.”
In her official statement, Schäfer dismissed the discrimination as a private event. She said the teachers who attended the celebration would not be disciplined as they were at the event in their private capacity.
“This results in schools like Brackenfell High School continuing to be non-inclusive spaces, hostile at times to Black people.When the Western Cape MEC of Education lacks the political will to see basic racial discrimination, how will the department which she oversees be able to properly address long-standing problematic policies, practices and cultures in schools, and what hope do Black learners in the Western Cape have of attending schools that are safe and integrated?,” asks Equal Education.
The organisation is calling on the school community of Brackenfell High, the Western Cape Education Department and the Commissioner for Children in the Western Cape to play a more proactive role in investigating and addressing all complaints of racism at the school and uprooting institutional racism in schools in the Western Cape.
Meanwhile, Sibongile Nkasayi, who was caught on camera being beaten by an unidentified man, has opened a case of assault against her assailant.
No arrest has yet been made.
And the man arrested for discharging a firearm during the Economic Freedom Fighters’ protest at the school on Monday appeared in court on Wednesday.
Jaco Pretorious’ case was postponed for further investigations and he will return to the Kuils River Magistrates Court 25 January 2021.
The EFF has promised to return to the school to “teach racists” a lesson.
The school tried to interdict them but failed.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) says the assault on its members who were protesting outside the Brackenfell High School in Cape Town is a confirmation that racists are emboldened under the country’s current regime.
On Monday, a violent confrontation broke out between a group of parents from the school and members of the party who were protesting against alleged racism at the school.
The red berets were upset over a private matric celebration organised by some parents of learners who attend the school.
Only White learners were apparently at the party, which the school did not organise.
One resident was arrested for public violence after firing several shots into the air.
The EFF is threatening to return to the school to teach “racists” a lesson.
“These terror attacks will not go unanswered. The EFF will descend on Brackenfell in its entirety and ensure nothing operates. All those White racists who have an uncontrollable desire to control the movement of Black people, and dictate where we can and cannot go, will be taught the humility we taught racists in Senekal,” says the EFF in a statement.
The Western Cape education authorities have condemned the violence.
MEC Derby Schafer says: “I strongly condemn both the actions of the EFF members and those parents outside the school, who used violence to address their concerns. Violent attacks are simply not acceptable and will in no way benefit our leaners. Violence is also not the solution to solving disagreements.”
Schafer says the educators who attended the matric event won’t be disciplined as they had been invited as private guests. She called for a peaceful engagement on the racism concerns, while urging the police to protect learners who have begun writing their matric examinations.
Brackenfell High School did not host a matric ball this year due to COVID-19.
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde is visiting the school today and called for calm.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), which governs the City of Cape Town, has blasted the EFF for protesting outside the school, sparking backlash from some members of the public.
The situation remains tense in Brackenfell as some parents have reportedly returned to the school. Members of the ANC and its alliance partner, Cosatu, in the Western Cape are also protesting outside the facility.
‘A past we shouldn’t seek to return to’
President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the confrontation outside Brackenfell High as deeply regrettable and has called on all parties involved to act responsibly.
He says the brawl brings back hurtful memories of a past the country should never seek to return to.
He adds that allegations of racism levelled against the school needs 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,” he said.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has also expressed shock and disappointment at the news of a racially segregated matric celebration. “More disappointingly, is the fact that this event was attended by their parents and two teachers from the school,” the commission says.
“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 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 has also called on the police to trace and charge the man who was caught on camera repeatedly beating a woman in EFF uniform with a stick. It has described the assault as beyond shocking.
Ex resident shares his experience of Brackenfell
Brackenfell is a small town in Cape Town situated between Durbanville and Kraaifontein. It is almost 40 minutes away from the City of Cape Town and is said to be conservatively White.
In a Facebook post, Pastor Aubrey Sibaya describes the town as racist.
“In 2013 I lived in Brackenfell. I experienced first hand racism firstly at the complex where I lived and in the shopping complex nearby just close by the school. In Brackenfell there’s a primary school, but because of racism there Black parents choose to take their children to nearby towns and suburbs. One Sunday morning I decided to have a haircut and at the Mall I found a salon owned by a White person and have coloured employees no Black person worked there then. The salon caters for all races, as usually I cut my chiskop and was asked to pay R90 and one White guy who I found at the salon had the same chiskop and paid R30 and I lost it. Those in the vicinity couldn’t believe I was standing up to this racial bigotry and asked me to calm down even though my friend requested we leave. But I stood my ground. Just where there’s Brackenfell High School there’s a complex frequented by White folks unlike one other close by to Kraaifontein.”
Sibaya is urging South Africans to work together to root out racism wherever it rears its ugly head.
“We also have to be mindful that it will take years for white folks to come around simply because of the racial indoctrination they have been exposed to. Not all White folks are racists. We need to stand up and fight for inclusivity and racial harmony, our tasks is to free the White folks from racial bigotry and we should not practice racism too. The Economic Freedom Fighters are not racists but they have total disgust for racial behaviour in our society and I agree with them in the fight against racism and though we may have a different approach as to how to wage that struggle but we all have a common understanding that racism is evil,” he adds.
The United Nations declared the apartheid’s racial policies a crime against humanity and Sibaya says South Africans of all races should also do the same.
“We may not be in the frontlines but in our workstations, schools and churches we must always speak truth and not shy away also to condemn the wrongs in our own government that is our mandate. As a man of the cloth my task is to tell you what makes you both comfortable and uncomfortable. We cannot allow these racists act happen unchallenged because they breed and or are fertile grounds for the genesis of a low intensity civil war we see emerging in our beloved country. We gonna be caught napping let us channel our efforts towards goodwill and racial harmony. We must condemn acts like the ones in the photos.”