Johannesburg - DA Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko was jeered and labelled a “coconut” as unionists and teachers gate-crashed a protest march by the party on Friday demanding better education in the Eastern Cape.
The dramatic scenes unfolded outside the offices of the provincial education department in Zwelitsha near Bhisho, where the Democratic Alliance's “peaceful” march soon erupted into chaos, the Weekend Post reported.
Sadtu and Nehawu supporters wielded sticks and heckled Mazibuko and a group of 500 of her supporters.
About 200 protesters loudly taunted Mazibuko while she addressed her followers, singing “amabulu amnyama” (rich blacks or coconuts).
“It is like calling black members coconuts, only more derogatory,” said DA Eastern Cape provincial leader Athol Trollip.
The protesters refused to give reasons for their protest and began chanting “no interviews”.
However, one woman, wearing a red Nehawu T-shirt, shouted: “Ask those who come to invade us!”
The tense stand-off came a day after Western Cape premier and DA leader Helen Zille was pelted with stones by striking farm workers and had to be whisked away by police in De Doorns in the Western Cape.
Following the education department's decision to axe almost 4000 temporary teachers in the province at the end of this year, the DA's mission was to deliver a memorandum to acting Superintendent-General Mthunywa Ngonzo, demanding quality teachers in every Eastern Cape classroom.
However, he refused to make an appearance, sending two departmental officials in his place.
“I am worried about a culture in which protesters carry sticks because we wanted to ensure this march was peaceful,” Mazibuko told Weekend Post.
“We are not here to engage with Cosatu but with the Department of Education. They can shout all they like. They are here to cause a fiasco and provoke us when they should be in class. They are making a mockery of education. They are very immature, yet they are supposed to be educated,” she said.
DA member Edmund van Vuuren laid a complaint of intimidation against Sadtu and Nehawu members - who work at the education department - at the Zwelitsha police station.
“Their strike was illegal because they didn't get permission and I laid the charges to prevent further intimidation against those who have permission to have a peaceful protest. We must nip this in the bud.”
Referring to the protest as a “wild cat strike”, Van Vuuren said the protesters were “raping the DA's democratic right” to freedom of speech.
“I can't understand it - we are fighting the same fight. We are all unhappy that teachers will lose their jobs, so I can't understand why they are standing there. Is it just because we are the DA?”
Schoolchildren from the nearby Xolani Senior Secondary school said they did not support the DA's call for better education practices in the province.
“We don't support them because we already have a good education and they were disturbing us while we were writing our maths literacy exam,” said Sikelelwa Gobile, 17. - Sapa