Northern Cape -

Charges must be laid against protesters preventing pupils from going to school in the Northern Cape, the Democratic Alliance said on Monday.

“If the situation has not changed I will be laying criminal charges in terms of the South African Schools Act against those who are preventing learners from attending school,” said DA MP Annette Lovemore in a statement.

The party was reacting to a report in The Times newspaper that 16 000 children in the province were unable to get to school because of violent protests against roads not being tarred.

The newspaper reported that since June protesting residents had forced teachers to close the gates of over 35 schools in the John Taolo Gaetsewe district municipality. The provincial department of education had been aware of the situation for a while.

“All the issues raised have been non-education issues,” department spokesman Sydney Stander was quoted as saying.

“The protesters chose schools because they are soft targets, intimidating teachers and pupils.”

Schools in Glenred, Dithakong, Bothithong, Loopeng and Laxey had been affected, he said.

The department said matriculants had been relocated and were being tutored.

Basic education department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said Minister Angie Motshekga was involved behind the scenes, but had not visited the area yet.

In January, Motshekga singled out John Taolo Gaetsewe as one of the worst-performing districts in the Northern Cape.

Neither Lesufi nor Stander could be reached for comment on Monday.

The National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA (Naptosa) said there had been an intervention, and that some schools had reopened.

Naptosa president Ezrah Ramasehla said the crisis had not been fully resolved. He called on Motshekga and other political and community leaders to immediately put an end to the “chaos”. - Sapa