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‘I’ve been getting death threats’

A Grabouw community leader was in tears as he told of the death threats he has been receiving over the past fortnight.

An emotional John Michels, chairman of the Grabouw/Elgin Civic Organisation, told a press conference in Salt River on Tuesday that he was receiving the threats on his life on a daily basis.

John Michels, chairman of the Elgin Grabouw Civic Organisation. Photo: Henk Kruger. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Last month, protests in Grabouw over overcrowding at the Umyezo Wama Apile Combined School escalated into violence between black and coloured residents.

Michels said that two weeks before the violence, SMSes that claimed that k******s would burn down the coloured schools, were circulated in the area.

He said on March 20, when the violence erupted, “a group of hooligans” had gone around telling residents that two classrooms at Groenberg Secondary had been burnt down and this was reported as fact.

Michels said the threats against him by unknown individuals started on that day. He said education officials never informed the community of their plans to resolve the school’s problems.

He claimed that Education MEC Donald Grant had also refused to meet the Grabouw Task team, which Michels said was representing parents.

“The protests will not stop. We will apply pressure within the perimeters of the law.” He said the community would not accept the site where the Western Cape Education Department wanted to put up a temporary school for pupils from Umyezo Wama Apile.

This site, he said, was in the lowest part of Grabouw and was a wetland.

He said Grant was playing dangerous, dirty, racist politics and questioned why the pupils could not go to Grabouw High School.

Department spokesman Paddy Attwell said there was no truth in Michel’s accusation and that there were no empty classrooms at Grabouw High. He said the department was implementing a 10-point plan to reduce pressure on Umyezo.

This would include consultations with the school governing body, parents and affected pupils.

He said the department had started work on a temporary school on a site zoned for education. Consultations with the governing body and principal had been held.

Grade 11 and 12 pupils would be accommodated at another site in the short-term and in the long term the department was planning to build a permanent school. - Cape Argus

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