Pretoria - The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has slammed proposed legislation aimed at banning protests outside schools and institutions of learning and care for minor children.
“The problem is that it is informed by racial intention to keep (Afrikaans-medium) schools lily white and stop South Africa from achieving transformation. That is the weakness of political parties protecting white privilege,” Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said on Sunday.
He was reacting to a notice Parliament published inviting the public to make written submissions on a proposed bill aimed at prohibiting public gatherings near schools and other institutions for minor children. The private member’s bill is to be introduced by the Freedom Front Plus’ Anton Alberts.
“The objective of the bill is to prohibit any protests near schools and other places where minors are present,” Alberts said.
It was sparked by protests at Overvaal High School, Gauteng, earlier this year. The school hogged headlines when it was marred by protests after it did not accept 55 English-speaking pupils. At the time, Sadtu, supported by Cosatu and tripartite alliance partners, marched to the school and demanded the acceptance of the excluded pupils. Maluleke said on Sunday the Freedom Front Plus was within its rights to introduce the bill like any political party.
“We will be able to make our written submissions at the right time, but we are opposed to anything that is informed by racial intention,” he said. At the centre of the bill is ensuring persons exercised their right to assemble peacefully and with due regard to the rights of others.
“The bill seeks to amend the (Regulation of Gathering) Act to prohibit protests outside schools as well other institutions of learning and care, such as children’s homes and houses of safety, where there are minor children in order to give effect, among others, to the rights enshrined in Section 28(2) of the Constitution,” Alberts said.
The laws that would have to be amended include, among others, the National Schools Act and the Regulation of Gatherings Act, he said.
“As things stand at present, the rights of peace-loving citizens, and in particular learners, are being disregarded as their safety is jeopardised by the nature of protests actions.
“The FF Plus’ proposed private member’s bill is, therefore, of the utmost importance as it will serve to protect children against disruption, particularly in schools, and it will also augment their fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.
The bill comes as the Essential Services Committee is scheduled to hold public hearings next month on educators and similar staff being declared essential service deliverers in major cities. The DA made the request to the committee to establish a minimum service level for school staff when there is a strike. Maluleke said he was aware the committee was working on an initiative to protect children at pre-schools and at crèches.
“We approach that with an open mind because these are the children who need to be protected. What you need is for protests not to be violent and that you protest peacefully,” he said.
The DA’s Nomsa Marchesi said her party would comment fully once the bill was brought to Parliament. She said she was excited the question of safety of children was being raised in the proposed bill as her party had done at the Essential Services Committee.