On Monday, two groups clashed outside of a South African high school at a protest over an alleged whites-only party that took place two weeks ago.
Residents, parents, and members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political party had gathered outside of Brackenfell High School in Cape Town, South Africa, on Monday to protest when tensions flared over a private matric party — the American equivalent of a prom dance — that was alleged to have been only for white students and was attended by two teachers.
The EFF, made up predominantly of Black protesters, wanted the two teachers who attended the party, which was held privately in lieu of the typical school-sanctioned matric ball due to COVID-19, to be suspended. A group of primarily white students and parents began attacking the demonstrators on the date of the protest, The Daily Herald reported.
Footage of the two groups clashing circulated on social media and showed the two sides attacking each other and throwing stones. White adults can be seen shoving and insulting Black demonstrators.
Western Cape Education Minister of Education Debbie Schäfer, issued a statement about the incident, condemning the violence, saying: “The school had nothing to do with the organization or management of that event. It was not supported, funded or endorsed by the school in any way. The school did not hold a matric ball this year owing to COVID-19 concerns.”
She also said that the Western Cape Education Department could not take any action against the two teachers who attended the party. However, Schäfer sharply rebuked the EFF for holding a protest outside of the school while students were testing.
“Our learners are currently writing matric exams after a stressful and difficult year, and the EFF knows full well that this kind of confrontation will disrupt learning and cause unnecessary distress to our learners. To deliberately instigate this kind of confrontation clearly demonstrates that the EFF has little concern for the welfare of learners. It is yet another attempt by them to sow further division with populist antics,” she said.
EFF said it was holding a peaceful protest at the school when members of the party were attacked by “armed white racists.”
“The attacks in Brackenfell are yet another confirmation that racists are emboldened under the current regime, said EFF spokesperson Vuyani Pambo before threatening a second protest, saying, “The EFF will descend on Brackenfell in its entirety and ensure nothing operates.”
The political organization added, “It must be further noted that since 1994, there has never been a single black teacher at Brackenfell High School, which reveals how entrenched racism is at the school at an institutional level.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke out about the incident and called for an investigation. “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,” he said.
A 39-year-old man was arrested during the clash for public violence after firing a replica gun into the air.
Public order police intervened using stun grenades, and two EFF members were injured.
Schäfer has requested a detailed written report about the event in question, which she said appears not to have been exclusive to white students.
School authorities stated in a letter to parents that the event “was a private party organized by the parents… and did not fall under the control of the school.” However, they do not “condone or accommodate any events that are exclusively reserved for certain groups”.
Brackenfell High School is also being probed by the Western Cape Department of Education after it was discovered that the school hasn’t employed any Black teachers since 1994.