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Durban - Cape Town children’s right’s advocacy group Molo Songololo has submitted a formal complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) about a comment by the Eastern Cape’s MEC for Basic Education, Mandla Makupula, that children do not have rights.
Makupula, who later said the remark had been made in jest, made it while was addressing pupils during a student debate in the legislature in Bhisho last Saturday.
The Daily Dispatch reported that Makupula had said pupils’ rights began only when they finished their studies. If a youngster didn’t want to go to an initiation school, he would “hit him on the head with a knobkierie”.
Patric Solomons, the director of Molo Songololo, in Observatory, Cape Town, said the organisation viewed the MEC’s remarks so seriously that it had filed a formal complaint with the HRC.
The Eastern Cape Department of Basic Education said the MEC had been trying to lighten the mood, and the words were being taken out of context.
“Some of the MEC’s ‘tongue-in-cheek’ statements… have been completely misread by the reporter,” said the department.
“The MEC recognised that this was an engagement with young people with a limited attention span. It was important that his remarks were interspersed with a high level of humour and reference to day-to-day experiences.”
But Samantha Waterhouse, the parliamentary programme co-ordinator at University of the Western Cape’s community law centre, said the Eastern Cape’s history of poor school performance was no joking matter.
She added that no one in Makupula’s position should make jokes about initiation schools.
“If it was a joke, it was a terribly badly presented joke, given the high levels of corporate punishment in schools,” said Waterhouse.
HRC spokesman Isaac Mangena said: “We have received complaints about the utterances by the MEC. We are busy accessing the matter. We will be issuing more information ton Saturday.