The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is considering a broader inquiry into allegations of racial exclusion at schools following violent clashes over a matric party attended by some Brackenfell High School pupils.
Western Cape SAHRC Commissioner André Gaum told News24 on Wednesday the commission had initiated its own investigation into the events surrounding the party.
The investigation has just started, so there is no conclusion or further details available.
However, other complaints of racism received by the SAHRC countrywide indicates that a broader probe might be needed to examine whether there are systemic problems.
“We will get the facts based on our investigation,” Gaum told News24.
“The South African Human Rights Commission has opened an own-initiative investigation as far as both the claims of unfair discrimination with regards to the matric event is concerned, as well as the violence that erupted here on Monday,” said Gaum.
The commission had already visited the school on Tuesday and had discussions with the principal and the chairperson of the school governing body.
“We must stress that no findings have been made yet. It is still very early in our investigation, so we have also not yet made the finding that there has been a racially segregated event, for example.
“We simply need to first establish all the facts as far as this issue is concerned, which will obviously relate to matters such as invitations – who was invited.”
It will include discussions with parents and pupils, and allegations that teachers attended the event.
The commission is going into it with an “open mind”. Debbie Els (Jenni Evans, News24)News24 Jenni Evans Morne Swart (Jenni Evans,News24)News24 Jenni Evans Names of murdered women and children placed on Morne Swart’s car as he lobbies against further violence (Jenni Evans, News24)News24 Jenni Evans
He added that the right to protest is a fundamental right, but it also has to be exercised peacefully and unarmed.
It cannot infringe on the right to education.
He said wherever there are protests, there are limits to the right to protest, but it is a “very important” constitutional right.
The Brackenfell High School controversy arose as a result of most schools cancelling their traditional matric ball due to Covid-19.
A claim was made that a private matric function, organised by parents, excluded black people.
The school distanced itself from the event, saying it was private, although some teachers had attended.
The EFF took up the issue, and some of its representatives held a meeting with the school on Friday, before violent clashes erupted near the school on Monday between angry community members and protesters.
An application by the school to interdict the EFF from picketing at the school was not granted by the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.
The EFF was, however, given until Friday to file court papers with regard to the application and it is expected to be heard on Monday.
Quiet on Wednesday
On Wednesday, a group of parents gathered under a tree near the school in Rogland Park. It eventually dwindled down to two people, then one in a camping chair, and later their spot in the shade was taken by one of the police vehicles monitoring while the children were at school.
A range of other interest groups arrived, ranging from a women’s prayer group, to an organisation that lobbies against farm murders, and another that lobbies against the murder of women and children.
The latter two – #OurVoices and the Stop Farm Murders Movement – felt that Monday’s confrontation between some parents and EFF supporters had been “misconstrued” by the media.
Debbie Els, of the Stop Farm Murders Movement, said her primary concern is the safety of women and children, and the prevention of gender-based violence.
She said the safety of the children inside the school, many of whom are writing their matric finals, was the reason why she was monitoring.
She said she had it on “good authority” that the matric party was private – and that many people declined because they did not want to go out during the Covid-19 pandemic, or they couldn’t afford it, or had a prior engagement.
She said the usual school friend dynamics may also have contributed to some not attending.
#AllVoices activist Morne Swart said, between sips of Monster energy drink, that he defends “what is right”.
He crisscrosses the country in his vehicle, wrapped with a banner containing the names of murdered women and children, and a picture of the front page of the Constitution.
The Mossel Bay man’s travels have taken him as far afield as Senekal in the Free State, where there was a large gathering of EFF supporters and people sympathising with farmers after the murder of farm manager Brendin Horner.
He said he is not political, and has even protested with the EFF and ANC before, over the murder of a child in Gauteng.
He is also is worried that tensions, such as those seen on Monday, may one day lead to someone being killed.
He felt the Brackenfell High controversy had become “political play”.
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