South Africa: Whites-only School Dance Party Sparks Protests
Police fired teargas at opposition activists protesting Friday against alleged racism at a Cape Town school where a whites-only dance party was allegedly organised last month.
Anti-riot police aimed teargas and water cannon towards hundreds of members of the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) gathered near the school.
The protesters dispersed and later regrouped a few blocks away. Police had put up razor wire to keep them from the vicinity of the school.
A white man who walked towards the podium while EEF’s secretary general Marshall Dlamini addressed supporters was assaulted by a group of protesters, prompting police to fire another round of teargas.
Police had said only 100 people were allowed to march to the school.
The protests were the latest in a string of demonstrations against alleged racism at Brackenfell High School following the dance held in late October.
Days after the party, EFF members tried to march to the school but were blocked by some of the students’ parents, resulting in fist fights.
Widely shared video footage showed scenes of angry white people punching EFF’s black protesters on the streets on November 9.
President Cyril Ramaphosa called for an investigation, describing the clashes as “deeply regrettable”.
“The spectacle of parents and protesters coming to blows at the school gate is deeply unfortunate,” Ramaphosa said, adding the development brought “back hurtful memories of a past we should never seek to return to”.
The clashes occurred a few weeks after similarly racially-charged protests in the central farming town of Senekal over the murder of a white farm manager by suspected black assailants.
Despite the end of apartheid a generation ago, racial tensions in South Africa can run high.
“Apartheid did not end in 1994. They (whites) keep showing us their true colours,” the EFF tweeted.
The school has denied responsibility for the year-end dance, saying it was organised privately and hosted outside its premises.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the traditional school-leavers party had been cancelled, but a group of students organised their own, at which some teachers were in attendance.
In a letter to parents last week, school principal Jannie Muller expressed “deep regret” for the pain caused “especially (to) learners of colour”.
Anti-apartheid icon and retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu described in a statement through his foundation the racial division at the school as “a symbol of unresolved issues from South Africa’s past”.