South Africa

Schooling disrupted, bus torched as crisis over Klipspruit principal escalates

By Ihsaan Haffejee 3 August 2017

A Putco bus was torched by protesting residents as demonstrations surrounding the appointment of a principal at Soweto's Klipspruit West Secondary School escalated. BY IHSAAN HAFFAJEE.

Residents of Kliptown set a bus alight on Thursday in ongoing protest action in the area that has impacted on schooling.

Police spokesperson Kay Makhubele said residents had hijacked the bus, used it to block the main road and then proceeded to set it alight. We will be investigating to see if we can open cases of public violence and malicious damage to property‚” Makhubele said.

Anthony Phillip Williams, a protest leader representing a group called Patriots for Equality, claimed that the community had agreed during a meeting the night before that no property should be damaged during the protest. “We were busy mobilising people in the morning and when we returned to the main road we saw the bus on fire. I’m not sure who did it or why it was done,” said Williams.

The latest protest action stems from the ongoing crises at the Klipspruit West Secondary School after the appointment of a black principal in what is a predominantly coloured area. Protesting residents have disputed allegations of racism leveled against them and say their concern is with the process followed, which they claim was flawed. The community maintains that suitably qualified coloured candidates have been overlooked.

Williams laid the blame for the crisis on the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) which he claims are pushing an agenda which is discriminating against coloured people. “Their operation says that every position of principal and deputy principal in coloured schools will be occupied by black African teachers. That is at the heart of our grievance. So what must happen to those coloured teachers who have been in the system for 20 or 30 years? This means that they will never get a chance,”said Williams.

Sadtu in Gauteng said the union was being used as a scapegoat to justify what they claim is racist conduct by the protesters at the school.

The Gauteng Department of Education expressed its disappointment with the way the community has reacted and has strongly condemned the disruption of learning in the area. Children from both high and primary schools could be seen wandering around Klipspruit, with some joining the protest as schools in the area remained shut.

Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona said that the community should afford the department some time to investigate and find a solution to the issues. “The community raised concerns over procedures used to appoint a principal. We have asked them to give us an opportunity to go and verify the paperwork so we can pronounce on the way forward,” Mabona said.

Photo: Kliptown residents protest against the appointment of a principal at Soweto’s Klipspruit West Secondary School. Photo: Ihsaan Haffajee

The sentiment expressed by the Klipspruit protesters mirrored those who demonstrated during protests in the other “coloured” areas of Eldorado Park and Ennerdale a few months back.

There is a feeling of disenfranchisement, lack of economic opportunity and of being ignored by those in charge of government.

Why do we have to get people from outside to come and do jobs that could be done by people from this community?” asked one resident who had joined the protest. “Even when there is any government tender we see that companies are coming from far away to do the job. Why is this? Are the local coloured people not good enough for this government? There are so many young, unemployed people in this area but government does nothing to help us.”

Nadine Kroats, a Grade 11 pupil at Klipspruit West Secondary School, said the constant protests were disrupting learning and causing worry among pupils. She played Daily Maverick a WhatsApp voice note in which parents were warned to keep their children at home and not send them to school as protests were being planned. “We’re not feeling okay about this whole situation that’s happening because we are behind with our school work and we need to study because exams are coming up in September,” said Kroats, who has ambitions of becoming an air hostess after completing matric. She noted that the school itself faces many challenges including drug dealing on the premises. “We want to have our education and to get our matric so that we can try to do something better with our lives.”

Those leading the protest vowed to keep schools closed until the relevant department heads and the Gauteng Premier were brought in to listen to their demands and plot a way forward.

The Gauteng Department of Education said that a meeting with community leaders was scheduled for Thursday evening to discuss all outstanding issues. DM

Photo: Police to investigate cases of public violence and malicious damage to property after protesting Kliptown residents hijack then set a bus alight during protests over the appointment of a principal at Soweto’s Klipspruit West Secondary School. Photo: Ihsaan Haffajee

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