DA member of parliment Annette Lovemore visited Kimberley yesterday to open a police report against strikers in the Northern Cape who are responsible for keeping children out of schools. Picture: Johnnie van Niekerk

Kimberley - The DA has opened a criminal case against protesters who are preventing children from attending schools in several parts of the Northern Cape.

This comes after more than 40 schools were shut down by protesters in the current spate of violent protests in several parts of the John Taolo Gaetsewe District (JTGD).

The party’s MP and spokeswoman on education, Annette Lovemore, yesterday opened a case at the Kimberley police station.

“The South African Schools’ Act is clear that it is compulsory for children to attend school and anyone preventing them from accessing education is committing a criminal offence, for which the punishment can be six months’ imprisonment,” Lovemore said.

“Whoever is responsible for shutting down the schools and preventing children from accessing education must be arrested and face the full might of the law. We are opening a case of intimidation of the learners by the protesters.”

Speaking to the media from the police station, Lovemore said that it was unacceptable that children were being turned into education refugees in their own province and called on the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature (NCPL) to declare a State of Emergency on the situation in JTGD.

“The situation has gone out of control. Children have been forced to attend classes in academic refugee camps, fleeing from persecution by their own community.

“This must not be allowed to continue and we are calling on the NCPL to declare a State of Emergency in JTGD.”

She said the party was planning to visit the area on a fact-finding mission but had been advised by law enforcement authorities not to.

“This shows the seriousness of the situation,” Lovemore stated. She said irrespective of how genuine the community’s problems were, no one had the right to use children in the fight for service delivery.

“How dare they play with the children’s future? Irrespective of how serious their problems are, they cannot use children to fight their battles. Doing so is a criminal offence and the culprits must be arrested and be prosecuted,” Lovemore added.

She said that it was shocking that the provincial government had failed to arrest the situation when it erupted months ago.

“It is hard to comprehend why the government, especially the Premier (Grizelda Cjiekella), has allowed this situation to get to this point. It should not be hard for the Premier to deploy more police personnel to deal with the situation in the affected areas.

“Why has the situation been allowed to get this point, we do not know. What we know though is that the Premier is the ultimate person who should take full responsibility for this crisis,” Lovemore indicated.

She said that the DA was very concerned about how learners in other grades in the affected schools would perform at the and of the year.

“The Department of Basic Education (DBE) needs to tell us what is going to be done to prepare the affected learners for the final examinations. Will the learners be passed without being assessed or not? If they are assessed, how will this be done? What type of support will be given to the affected learners to prepare them for the assessments? The DBE needs to give us a detailed catch-up plan,” Lovemore stated.

She was accompanied by the DA’s Member of the Provincial Legislature, Dr Allen Grootboom.

The Northern Cape Department of Education yesterday dismissed claims that it did not have money to sustain the academic camps. “Although we never budgeted for the camps, we do have enough money to sustain all the academic camps that would need to be set up once the situation in all affected areas are normalised,” the department’s spokesman, Sydney Stander, said.

“We had to prioritise these camps and we will make them work for the benefit of our children affected by the situation.”

The Northern Cape police spokeswoman, Lieutenant Andrea Cloete, confirmed that the DA opened a case of intimidation against the protesters.

The Northern Cape Provincial Legislature said that according to section 37(1) of the Constitution, the State of Emergency may be declared only in terms of an act of Parliament.

“The Legislature does not have the constitutional mandate to declare the State of Emergency,” spokeswoman for the Speaker’s Office, Mpho Magabane, said.

She said that the rules of the Legislature allowed for house sitting debates of urgent public importance to be debated in the House (Rule 140).

“Should such a debate of public importance be requested from the Office of the Speaker, then the debate will be scheduled on the programme of the legislature,” Magabane said.

She said that the Legislature was concerned about the fact that learners were being prevented from attending school due to the service delivery protests.

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