Monday’s violent scenes in Cape Town where parents of Brackenfell High School pupils fought with members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) was a reminder of racial divisions in the South African society.
A private party organised by 42 white matriculants and their parents started a racial storm with allegations that black learners were segregated from the event.
The EFF, a rising force in South Africa's opposition politics against what they call “white monopolist capital”, went to the school for “anti-racism protests” resulting in the clashes with the pupils’ parents.
The school, however, says that the party was just for 42 pupils out of a 2020 matric class of 254, and that some who did not attend are also whites.
Many schools across South Africa have cancelled their matric dance due to Covid-19 restrictions.
But Monday’s incident was regarded as a microcosm of a bigger picture illustrating racial tensions that represent the South African society.
Since the country attained Independence in 1994, it has been struggling to heal from the racial imbalances brought by apartheid.
“At this most important and difficult time for matriculants not only at Brackenfell High School but around the country, the spectacle of parents and protesters coming to blows at the school gate is deeply unfortunate,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
“What happened today brings back hurtful memories of a past we should never seek to return to. We should be ever mindful of the extent to which our actions, both publicly and in private, undermine the cherished principle of non-racialism upon which our democracy was founded.
“We should not allow what has transpired at Brackenfell High School to be used by any groupings who want to cause racial polarisation.”
EFF branded the alleged violence meted on their supporters as “white terrorism”.
“Our laws are undermined and law officials are bullied by white racists who have decided that there is no black government or black authority that can threaten their grip on sections of our society,” said the party.
The Brackenfell incident has also drawn in other political parties and civic organisations.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) accused and condemned EFF for allegedly sparking the violent scenes.
“Private events have absolutely nothing to do with any political party, and it was an outrage that the EFF believed they could arrive to protest outside the school and threaten parents and learners during the matric exam period,” said DA.
Even the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has added its voice. “The deep racial divisions of South Africa’s apartheid and colonial past cannot be healed while children are socialised separately on the basis of race and thus, as a nation, we will never be able to forge a South Africa where all are equal, free and are treated with dignity,” said SAHRC.