Khaya Ngwenya City Pres

There was chaos outside the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court yesterday when family and friends of a South Coast school principal charged with raping schoolgirls attacked the police investigating officer, an SABC cameraman and community members supporting the children.

The group, armed with knobkieries and sticks, were there to support the 44-year-old principal who was making his bail application. The case was postponed until next Thursday.

The man was arrested at his school last week after primary school girls approached police officers visiting their school on an outreach programme. They said the man had lured them to his office saying they were there to clean, or that he would give them extra lessons.

Several hundred people were at court for the man’s second appearance yesterday. These included children’s rights activists, the ANC, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, community members and the children’s parents.

The situation became tense inside the court when the principal’s supporters and the opposing group began exchanging jibes.

Outside, a face-off ensued and, when the investigating officer arrived, she was mobbed by the principal’s supporters who beat her up. She managed to hold on to the docket throughout the attack.

Despite the court being only metres from the police station, no police officers came to her assistance. Afterwards, she returned to the scene with three policemen to identify her attackers, who ran away with the officers in pursuit.

Zamo Ngcobo, an SABC cameraman who filmed the attack, became the target of the group when a woman who later said she was the principal’s daughter, threw water in his face.

The group slapped Ngcobo, trying to take his camera until local ANC councillor, Ntokozo Maphumulo, intervened – using his body to shield the journalist from the group.

Earlier the principal’s daughter had also been slapped and punched by community members.

When Maphumulo had tried to intervene, he was knocked to the ground by a man wielding a piece of wood. A number of terrified women ran from the fray crying for help.

The incident was confirmed by police spokesman Thulani Zwane who said that a 20-year-old woman had been arrested for assaulting a police officer.

Addressing people afterwards, Maphumulo criticised the handling of the incident by police. “If an investigating officer and journalist can be attacked, then how safe are we?”

“These people are dangerous,” he said.

“I call on the police to please protect us, especially the women who are here,” the councillor added.

The principal is facing four charges of rape and three charges of sexual assault. He is also charged with exposing himself.