Johannesburg - A Joburg teacher has sparked a racism storm following her comments about the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in the US, an incident that has ignited violent protests in many parts of the world.
Pinnacle College Kyalami teacher Sonya De Vynck has found herself in hot water after making remarks that have been viewed as related to Floyd’s death.
De Vynck allegedly threatened learners that if they do not submit their practice drawings when school reopens, she would give them something to protest about and sit on their necks.
De Vynck's remarks have caused outrage, with many linking it to the painful death of the 46-year-old Black American who lost his life at the hands of four officers after one of them pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nine minutes.
Millions across the world have since taken to the streets and social media to call for justice under the banner of Black Lives Matter.
De Vynck has penned a lengthy apology, stating she was not a racist, describing her comments “as a silly thing that popped into her head”.
“I am really sorry, you know that Afrikaans often deals with fear and pain with humour. We also try to make jokes about everything to ease the pain. I feel terrible about what I said. I am not putting down what happened to George Floyd,” she said.
“I do not condone it at all. I am not racist, I will never put anyone down. I have shed many tears about Mr Floyd, any person killed like that is upsetting.”
In her apology, De Vynck explained there was a saying in Afrikaans, "Ek gaan op jou nek le tot jy dit doen", translating to, "I’m going to lay on your neck until you do it", which is aimed at encouraging work to be completed.
The teacher said she felt hurt about the public’s response. “Please, I feel hurt about you guys thinking that I would ever condone something like that,” De Vynck said in an apology letter.
She pleaded for forgiveness, indicating it was a silly and inappropriate joke which had meant no harm.
Pinnacle College chief operating officer Christo De Wit said: “We’ve just been alerted to the matter and are investigating. Pinnacle College does not tolerate racism or any other form of discrimination and the matter is viewed in a serious light.”
Gauteng Education spokesperson Steve Mabona said that if such utterances were attributed to an educator, it was concerning.
“We will launch our investigation into the circumstances. We have been promoting non-racism and will always advocate for the same in our schooling environment irrespective of whether it’s a public or independent/private school,” Mabona said.
Meanwhile, the ANC-led alliance has called for a sharp focus on South Africa’s scourge of racism and brutality. Yesterday, the ANC, Cosatu and SACP secretariat announced that they would be launching an anti-racism campaign today which would be addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as part of the global response to Floyd’s killing.
ANC deputy general-secretary Jessie Duarte said the country had its own set of problems relating to racism and police brutality which had to be highlighted and confronted.
“The deaths by citizens at the hands of security forces are of deep concern to the Alliance.” Duarte said.
South Africa’s policing crisis also came under the spotlight during the Covid-19 lockdown following Collins Khosa’s death, allegedly at the hands of soldiers.
Duarte said the Alliance was also concerned that “the demon of racism remains a blight on the soul of our nation.
“It also finds expression in the kind of blatant racism and misogyny in social media that we’ve seen against Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma,” she said.
A Facebook user this week posted a picture depicting the minister as an ape. Dlamini Zuma has been at the receiving end of criticism and lampooning by those opposed to the Covid-19 lockdown regulations implemented by the National Coronavirus Command Council. Additional reporting by Siviwe Feketha