The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) fully endorses the widespread condemnation of the violence meted out against the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) supporters at the Brackenfell High School in Cape Town yesterday.

The AKF has in the past demonstrated in a similar way outside schools on issues of racism and considers the right to protest as a fundamental one in the fight against racism and other social injustices.

Those opposing the EFF’s right to gather and protest at the school seemingly did so on the basis that the EFF had no right to be in “their” area. This mentality is one that must also be condemned.

The issues of concern – the alleged segregated matric ball is one that needs to be probed independently. The dismissive attitude of the Western Cape Education Department indicates a serious lack of understanding of the gravity of this issue. It is in this context that we welcome the position of the South African Human Rights Commission, which says, “No one should be allowed to bring back racial segregation to this country. The deep racial divisions of SA’s apartheid and colonial past cannot be treated whilst children are socialised separately”

In a country where issues of racism are at the forefront of the lived experience of almost all of its citizens, it is time that we acknowledge its existence and find ways of engaging around lasting solutions to eradicate it from both the private and public life. As we do this we need to also have a conversation about how to deal with instances of alleged racism and whether the existing mechanisms to deal with these are sufficiently utilised and whether they are effective.

Let us also be mindful of the learners who have to write their examinations in this unconducive environment and put their interests first in all that needs to be done. These learners have had to cope with the effects of Covid 19 and a hugely complicated academic year and do not need the added pressure of violence and conflict outside of the school.

The issue of racism should be probed by the SAHRC and the provincial education department, with possible assistance from its national office. The South African Police Services must ensure that protests are conducted within the confines of the law and with little or no impact on the exam environment required by the learners of Brackenfell High School.

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