Report Of Observations: EFF Protests, Brackenfell High School
Dr Braam Hanekom - 21-11-2020
My thanks to the SAHRC who provided Dr Llewellyn MacMaster and myself with permits to act as monitors during the protest.
09.00. Everything is still very calm and peaceful. Police are present in large numbers. A few bystanders, but also the Cape Party who pitched their (advertising) tent outside the barbed wire fence, are present. The media is already present. The EFF has permission to erect their stage in front of the school’s entrance. Permission was granted for a march of 100 people.
09.30. We move closer to the EFF’s collection point, about one kilometre from the school’s entrance (Old Paarl Road/Paradise street).
09.45 (+ -). A smaller group of EFF members (200?) started to run into the direction of the school. The police fire stun grenades and water cannons. The group moves back to the collection point. More buses arrive.
11.00. The group has grown to about 1 000. Negotiations are now taking place between leaders and the police since the original agreement stated a maximum of 100 protestors. The group is relatively calm. However, it is very hot. Protestors are singing and dancing. Few masks. No social distancing. Walking sticks, whips, golf clubs, imitation wood, machine guns and even axes are visible everywhere. Racist statements are shouted, also directed at (brown) police. It is decided that the police will allow 500 protesters, as a compromise.
12.00. The group begins to move slowly but is stopped because it appears that the group is still very large. Rumour has it that the police now want to separate even the top 500 protesters from the rest. Clearly, the leaders are incapable of doing so. At this point, Llewellyn and I are next to the procession. The police's efforts fail and then people start running in all directions. We do not know why at first, but then realize it is teargas... Shock grenades follow. The group shoots in all directions.
Police direct their next line at the crossing of Frans Conradie and Paradise Street.
Regrouping takes place again.
15.00. The group finally moves closer to the school where a speech takes place at the stage. A white bystander asks the EFF why they "hate whites so much" - he is attacked. Teargas and stun grenades are used again. The man is "freed." He asked an important question, but in my opinion in a completely wrong place and time. However, the EFF will have to be confronted much better alongside the right forums about their current strategy and actions. It does not fit into any democracy and is a threat to peace in South Africa.
Meanwhile, reports of damage to shops and cars in the area are being received.
By about 5 p.m., virtually everyone adjourned.
Summary of Observations
1. This is more than a protest. This is a dangerous street theatre. The incitement of masses, with a certain narrative and decidedly racist undertones.
2. The presence of weapons such as axes, sticks, whips, and more is disturbing.
3. The question is asked whether the police could have handled it differently. My experience is that in the midst of great provocation, they handled the situation well. It should be emphasized that the EFF has broken virtually all prior agreements.
4. The movement currently reveals fascist, racist and populist traits.
5. The group was 95%+ ethnically black.
6. There were leaders of the EFF who did their best to control the group. However, they were not nearly strong enough or sufficient. The incitement that took place was too great.
7. The Brackenfell community has heeded the call to stay away. I think there were more media present than residents.
8. The EFF are masters at the use of symbolism. Can anyone explain to me the numerous palm branches? The EFF has the right and, like all of us, the responsibility to point injustice out and bring it to light. However, if you break the law yourself, you lose most of your own rights. I cannot help but strongly condemn the pressure they put on fragile learners in an already difficult year. Feedback from the trauma, also during the PAC protest, has already been received.
9. We experienced a strange sense of security as we often moved between police lines and the EFF lines. At the same time, a lot of anger and aggression was observed in the group. There is definitely pent-up anger and frustration. If the grass is dry, anyone can light a match and it will burn. The question must be asked: where does it come from and how can it be defused?
10. The wounds are much deeper than we realize.
11. There will have to be a much deeper search for the truth.
· Facilitated conversations with the children (and community) must be conducted. It is of the utmost importance that the truth about the "party" and more comes to light.
· There should also be a discussion with the children about the accusations of racism that are being made.
· Guided programs in diversity management and dealing with racism should be launched soon.
· Systemic racism must now be addressed nationwide. Senekal and Brackenfell are only symptoms. Hopelessly too little energy is currently being spent on building social cohesion and a new social compact.