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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

SAHRC report reveals racial friction behind disruptions at Eldorado schools

1 February 2019

The Human Rights Commission has found that disruptions in schools in the Eldorado Park area and ructions in the community were racially motivated. The commission launched an investigation following several incidents of school disruptions, violent protests, and allegations of racism which have often erupted in the area. The protests had resulted in people being prevented from leaving the area to go to work or school, business robberies, threats of violence and heavy-handed responses from police.
The investigation of the SAHRC sought to answer three important aspects of the situation in that area.
Whether there was racial discrimination in schools in the Eldorado Park area (particularly Klipspruit West Secondary School), in the classroom or in other aspects of school administration, and if so, what effect such discrimination was having on the right to basic education?
Whether the protests were related to disruptions and the closure of Klipspruit West Secondary School, and the cause for such protest. In this regard the panel sought to determine in particular whether factors which caused the protests were fuelled by unjustified racial discrimination and/or stereotyping?
Whether the South African Police Service appropriately responded to the protests, particularly protests held at schools in the Eldorado Park area and surrounding areas.

Suggesting that racial tensions were not unique to schools and communities in Eldorado Park, the commission stated: “The commission is alive to the history and current racial tension in the country within coloured communities, including the recent incidents at Reiger Park, Ennerdale and Kliptown.”
“Numerous submissions contained allegations that the coloured community in Eldorado Park and surrounding areas had been discriminated against and disadvantaged to the benefit of black members of the community. These submissions indicated that the alleged discriminatory treatment of the coloured community was practised at a national level as well,” the commission said.
The commission said, however, that the scope of the inquiry did not permit a consideration of alleged systemic discrimination of coloured communities nationally.

The commission’s probe concluded that there was prima facie evidence of racial tensions in the greater Eldorado Park between “coloured” and black communities. It found that there was a perception among coloureds that the government unfairly prioritises black communities when it comes to service delivery and job opportunities, at the expense of coloured communities.

The commission further said it accepts a submission that coloured individuals in that community have feelings of being left behind in South Africa’s Constitutional Democracy. “This sense of being left behind, as well as issues of lack of housing, poverty and unemployment within the coloured community, formed one of the underlying causes of the protests,” the report revealed.

The commission recommended that a more focused provincial dialogue regarding racial tensions between racial groups be convened under the auspices of the provincial and local government, together with Chapter 9 bodies working with human rights and other stakeholders to begin the journey of addressing the tensions and facilitating both healing and social cohesion.
The commission also recommended that a further investigation be conducted by the office of the Premier of Gauteng within a period of 180 days.

The commission ordered this investigation because some of the parties had made submissions and suggested recommendations in relation to various issues calling for consideration whether such recommendations fell within the ambit of the commission’s terms of reference for this particular inquiry.
The commission said such issues relate to suggested recommendations with regard to poor service delivery, the high unemployment rate, and the government’s development plans for Eldorado Park.

The commission further ordered that the investigation should also include relevant government departments, including the Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs COGTA, and the city of Johannesburg. It said findings and recommendations of the investigation should be submitted to the commission before December 2019.
The commission’s finding of racial tensions in the area disputes numerous claims by communities around Eldorado Park that the ructions in the areas were not racially motivated. The claims of racism gained traction after parents and stakeholders at the Kliptown West Secondary School rejected the appointment of a black principal. A strike had ensued as a result and lessons were disrupted.

The commission’s report has since revealed that there is overwhelming evidence that the black school principal, in particular, was rejected by the community and the school on account of her race. The commission found this was a violation of her Constitutional rights, including the right not to be unfairly discriminated against on the basis of race, and was also a violation of her dignity.
“One lady mentioned during her submission that the issue of race could not be left out in the discussions, and because of its obsession with racism, the commission said the issues are racially motivated, we don’t accept that,” said Anthony Williams, a leader of a group calling themselves the Gauteng Shutdown Coordinating Committee (GSCC).

In another example, seven teachers of the Eldorado Park Secondary School still do not report at the school. They were asked to report at the district education offices in Soweto after they refused to report at the school, alleging maladministration and racism. The seven were advised to report to the district education offices as tensions flared and an investigation got under way. They were all cleared of wrongdoing.
The teachers were barred from returning to the school by the school governing body and some parents. The seven have been reporting at the district offices for slightly over a year. The GSCC expressed sharp opposition to the return of the seven teachers.
“The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) is planning to forcefully re-introduce the ‘seven rogue teachers’ at the Eldorado Park Secondary School on Monday 21 January 2019. We call upon the parents and the community to stop Sadtu. We want quality teachers, teaching and learning for all learners in our school system,” a statement by the GSCC on 19 January said.

On Monday, as hundreds of Sadtu-affiliated teachers marched to the district offices to demand the return of the seven teachers, Daily Maverick saw a letter stating that a certain primary school in Soweto must consider prioritising the hiring of coloured administrative staff. The names of the three individuals whose employment should supposedly be prioritised were also stated in the letter and below that written “if possible, allow them an interview”.
“We want Eldorado Park to benefit from the two posts and especially our coloured people that are marginalised,” read the letter.
Anthony Williams of the GSCC denied that the group was the source of the letter.
“This letter was not sanctioned by the GSCC. The issue discussed in the letter is not with reference to Eldorado Park Secondary School (where the seven teachers are employed), it’s about administrative positions at Kliptown Primary School which went horribly wrong. The community has taken the school principal Mr Banks to task,” Williams said.

Asked for his comment on the SAHRC report, Williams said important matters were left out. He said they were not happy with the report and would take it on review.
“The commission failed to do justice to the pressing issues. They failed to consider important people’s submissions We will take the report on review,” Williams said.
The commission recommended that the department of education conduct a survey at Klipspruit West Secondary and schools in the greater Eldorado Park area to identify and assess policy and procedures which deviate from the Constitution and law, particularly in respect of racism. The department is to provide the findings of its survey within two months of the commencement of the 2019 school year.

The commission further recommended that the department include in its action plan, race sensitivity and diversity programs for educators, school management teams and SGBs of Kipspruit West and other schools in Eldorado Park.
To avoid further disruptions to teaching and learning, the commission ordered the provincial department to develop and implement more effective early warning systems. DM

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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