Suspect held for public violence after shots fired at EFF’s Brackenfell High protest

Cape Town – A 39-year-old suspect has been arrested for public violence after shots were fired during a clash between EFF protesters and residents outside Brackenfell High School on Monday.

Public order police and other law enforcement agencies had to restore order, Western Cape police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said. The suspect was initially charged with attempted murder, but it’s believed he had only an imitation firearm.

Rwexana said no injuries were reported and no other arrests have been made. The police are monitoring the situation and Frans Conradie Drive and Paradys Road have been closed.

‘’It is alleged that a member of the public fired shots. A case of public violence was opened for investigation,“ Rwexana said.

’’A 39-year-old suspect that is yet to be processed was arrested. Police took action to disperse the crowd, no injuries were reported and no other arrests were effected at this stage.

A Brackenfell resident holds up a placard as EFF members protest outside the local high school. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / African News Agency (ANA)

“Police will remain in the area until law and order is restored.’’

EFF members were accused of throwing stones and sticks at residents who were blocking their entry.

In an African News Agency (ANA) video, residents could be seen running towards the protesters, pelting them with objects, asking them “what are you doing here” and telling them that they needed to leave immediately. A fight then breaks out and mayhem ensues.

When police arrive at the scene of the fighting, a stun grenade is fired and incensed residents shout for the EFF protesters to be arrested as order is restored. The EFF continued with their protest further away as insults are hurled at them.Play Video

The EFF, who also protested on Friday, demanded two Brackenfell High teachers and the principal be fired after the teachers had attended a private matric function that was only attended by white pupils and their parents.

Black pupils said they were neither informed nor invited to the function. While the school has distanced itself from the event, the EFF says it must accept some responsibility because of the teachers’ attendance.

The Western Cape Education Department has said that it could not take action against anyone because it was a private party.

The department is, however, investigating allegations that the school may be guilty of racism in its staffing practices. Currently, the school has two coloured teachers on its staff of 40 educators. No black teachers have reportedly been employed at the school since 1994.

A Brackenfell resident, when asked before the EFF arrived if he thought things are going to turn violent, said: ’’This is absolutely disrespectful. To protect the school, that is why we are here.

“The EFF will not come in Brackenfell and disturb our country. Die EFF gaan nie kom moeilikheid maak in Brackenfell nie (The EFF won’t come and cause trouble in Brackenfell).”

Neil de Beer, leader of the United Independent Movement (UIM), who was asked by parents to get involved, said outside the school before Monday’s protest: ‘’I want this to be understood. The people of Brackenfell, as I know them, are not racist. This is not a racial issue, this is an issue of the rights of children to be in peace.’’

De Beer said he had entered a plea on behalf of the UIM on Friday to the Speaker of Parliament, Thandi Modise, to form a judicial inquiry against EFF members, who took an oath of office to protect this constitution but are “in breach’’. He said they should be reprimanded and removed from Parliament.

Brackenfell resident Richard Collins, who was there in support of all the children, said: “I am a father myself, my daughter matriculated last year. I can just imagine what this is doing to the children, especially having to write exams.

“They must be intimidated, some must be in fear of their lives, especially the Grade 8s, it’s uncalled for, it is unnecessary about somebody who just wants to be plain stupid if I can call it that.’’

However, the provincial Education Department said its hands were tied as they “cannot 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”.

The EFF’s picket today follows demonstrations on Friday when the organisation gathered at the school and demanded that the two teachers as well as the principal be fired.

Their call follows black pupils saying they were neither informed nor invited to the event, which was organised by parents.

EFF Western Cape chairperson Wandile Kasibe claimed they were met with racism from some of the school community during the party’s demonstration on Friday.

“The event reproduced a space for segregation. The school has distanced itself from the event, but two teachers went. They must be fired.

“We are going to the school (today) to confront that racism,” Kasibe said.

At the demonstration last week, a car’s window was smashed, which Kasibe alleged was their vehicle.

Police spokesperson Andre Traut said police were investigating malicious damage to property.

“The window of a vehicle belonging to one of the protesters was damaged. The circumstances are being investigated and a suspect is yet to be arrested,” Traut said.

A parent on the ball’s organising committee said she was growing tired of the fuss being made about the event, and she was now concerned about the stress pupils were under as they were writing their finals. She said the teachers were invited as “friends” of parents.

“A lot of lies are being spread about the event. It was a private event paid for by parents, and the teachers were invited as friends of ours,” she said.

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the department was aware of today’s expected picket and would be monitoring it closely.

She said the WCED cannot take action against teachers who were invited as guests. “The WCED has engaged with the school and learners and will continue to address the concerns that have been raised. No other reports of discrimination have been reported to the WCED this year.

“The WCED will also be monitoring the actions of the EFF (today). Matric learners are writing their NSC, so any disruption to these examinations could have negative consequences for all the learners,” Hammond said.

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has meanwhile said the kind of exclusion displayed publicly at Brackenfell High School existed at schools across the province, including at majority black and coloured schools.

SAHRC provincial commissioner Chris Nissen said they would approach the school to look at implementing diversity management programmes.

Following a call for the SAHRC to intervene, Nissen said a formal complaint would first go through the head office.

“We are concerned that this is happening, especially at schools where pupils are taught life skills on how to positively contribute to diversity in the country.

’’I have seen from doing diversity workshops that this happens across the board, it’s not just Brackenfell High.”

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