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.”
Fear continues to haunt the residents of Somkhele near Mtubatuba, in KwaZulu-Natal.
It’s been two weeks since four hit men gunned down environmental activist, Fikile Ntshangase, in her home in front of her grandson in Ophondweni.
She had survived an attempted hit the week before her passing.
The 65-year-old was at the forefront of a battle against the Tendele Coal Mining’s extension bid in the area.
It is suspected that she was killed for refusing to sign an agreement to drop court cases against the mine.
Ntshangase was laid to rest in KwaMaphumulo on Friday.
Her comrades say her death has left a huge void.
Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) Coordinator Philani Ndimande says community members are not at ease since Ntshangase’s murder.
“When night time falls – we are all worried because we do not know when or who might come under attack.”
Ndimande, however, says a strong police presence is comforting to them.
While they had been promised a breakthrough in the investigation soon – he says – nothing has come out of it yet.
“No one has been arrested. Now one of our community members was shot while visiting Durban recently. While we don’t know if their shooting was due to the problem we are faced with here – it is concerning.”
Mam’Ntshangase was Ndimande’s comrade, fighting together under the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation, against Tendele’s plan to expand, which also requires the relocation of families from their ancestral land.
On Tuesday, the community organisation’s case alleging that Tendele’s mining operations on particular portions of land is illegal was heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal.
MCEJO accuses Tendele of having failed to obtain an environmental authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (NEMA) for conducting certain listed activities on the site. The organisation also wants Tendele’s mining rights set aside, arguing that there was no public participation before the firm obtained a mining licence; there was no environmental authorisation and relocation agreement plan for 19 affected families.
Ndimande says the mine also exhumed the remains of some community members without a permit.
“I was really happy with how our representatives argued our case during the virtual hearing but hey – remember we are faced with a giant. So, while I am hopeful of a favourable outcome – things can go either way,” he told Local Voices.
Judgment has been reserved in the matter.
Call for justice
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has condemned Ntshangase’s murder, saying it is concerning that the human rights activists’ exercise of fundamental human rights, especially in mining communities, has always put their lives in danger.
“The Commission considers the killing of Mam’ Ntshangase as a threat to the creation and existence of a safe and enabling environment for defenders of social, land and environmental justice to freely exercise their rights. The Commission is further concerned that this matter links to larger, systemic issues in South Africa, a lack of adequate enforcement mechanisms of existing legislative frameworks by the relevant State departments, particularly the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. Closing the legislative gaps and ensuring the enforcement of legislation negates the need for the community to lobby for accountability and justice and removes conflict within communities,” it says.
The SAHRC is calling on the government to create and sustain a safe environment for the exercise of constitutional rights. It believes that justice in Mam’Ntshangase’s case will help achieve this.
Before she was killed, Mam’ Ntshangase is said to have refused to sign the relocation agreement, which certain of her sub-committee members of MCEJO had purportedly signed on behalf of MCEJO.
She is also said to have stated her intention to depose to an affidavit, revealing that some members of MCEJO had spoken to her of a payment of R350 000 in exchange for her signature.
Ndimande says while divisions over the matter in the community remain, they are hopeful that fellow residents who “accepted money from Tendele” will eventually come around.
“This thing of people taking bribes was not surprising to us. You know when people are hungry they can do anything. But the sad part is money does end and once it is finished – they will see the substance of what we are fighting for. Our land and our environment. And we will always be ready to work together with them should they realise their mistake,” he says.
However, Tendele has denied bribing community members to agree to its planned expansion.
Responding to claims that it offered MCEJO members R300 000 to withdraw their cases, the mine in a response featured on the Daily Maverick says: “What is correct is that the mine has offered compensation to the 145 householders who would need to be resettled to enable the survival of the mine. These offers are based on evaluations of the structures (the land belongs to the Ingonyama Trust Board (“ITB”), although we believe the amounts offered are well in excess of the actual value. The minimum compensation is R400 000 per householder, which includes homes plus various other considerations. The average compensation is R750 000 per householder.”
The mine says each householder will be relocating to other ITB land in the Mpukunyoni area of their choice, “at no cost for the land, having satisfied themselves on matters regarding adequacy of, for example, grazing-land quality and preferences on neighbours.”
Tendele says it has reached out to MCEJO to find solutions to outstanding issues and is ready to negotiate agreements with community members who have not yet accepted the firm’s offers.
It insists that the expansion of the mine is essential for the mine to be saved, arguing that its closure will result in the loss of income directly and indirectly for 20 000 people in an area where “unemployment is up to 90% and the mine is the only real employer.”
The KwaZulu-Natal government has been involved in efforts to find a solution to the dispute between the mine and the community.
It says it has established a task team that will continue to engage with all stakeholders in a bid to address matters of concern from the residents of kwaSomkhele.
“In the memory of Mam Ntshangase, all sectors of society should rally together to expose the perpetrators and ensure that this area does not descend to be a dangerous place for women and community members who participate in development issues,” the provincial government says.
Tendele’s Somkhele open cast coal mine has been operating since 2007 and the company received rights to extend its operations in 2016.
The mine operates in the uMkhanyakude District, which is is known for its lack of hydraulic resources and its poor delivery services of water and sanitation. Community members opposed to its expansion say it will exacerbate water scarcity in the area. They are also worried about pollution that threaten their families’ health, cattle, and farming productivity.
The Harteespoort Community Development Initiative has taken the Department of Water and Sanitation to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
The Non-Profit Organisation is accusing the department of discriminating against Black lease applicants at the Harteesport Dam’s shoreline.
“Our organisation has evidence of collusion between White DWS officials who treat White illegal occupiers of state land (prime shoreline land) preferentially. These White people occupy and use this land for free while Black people who have applied for leases are denied the same opportunity while they are denied the same permission to occupy for free like all White illegal occupiers,” the organisation’s Mmeli Mduli told Local Voices.
He says the department is dilly dallying with finalising its internal processes to boot out illegal occupiers of the shoreline.
According to the NPO, the oldest Black lease applicant has now been waiting for a lease for 8 years since lodging his lease application in October 2012. This while a White lease applicant was approved within the same period.
The legal battle between the Water Affairs Department and the Harteespoort Community Development Initiative dates back to 2018.
The NPO says it approached the human rights commission after its complaint with the office of the Public Protector proved futile.
Tensions are running high in Senekal where two men are appearing for the murder of farm manager, Brendin Horne.
Horne was found murdered two weeks ago at a farm, which he managed.
Economic Freedom Fighters, community members, AfriForum and farmers are gathered around the local magistrate’s court.
A former South African Defence Force member has warned against those trying to instigate war, telling Newzroom Afrika that those who want war will have it.
The South African Human Rights Commission has meanwhile called for calm.
“The Commission demands that the constitutional right to protest be exercised within the ambit of the Constitution and the law. Thus all particpants in protest action must exercise this right unarmed and peacefully,” it says in a statement.
Police are monitoring the situation.