Johannesburg - SA police on Wednesday fired rubber bullets at protesters outside the Afrikaans Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging, where 55 English speaking children had been turned away.
The first day of school turned bloody when a couple of protesters were hit by rubber bullets. Shortly after ambulances arrived outside school and ferried bleeding protesters
Police officers pointing shotguns, chased the protesters for a distance. They repeatedly fired stun grenades and rubber bullets, while shouting at the protesters to move off.
A few protesters fell to the ground, bleeding. A bleeding aged woman complained that she had been shot in her back. Her arm was also bleeding. She was attended to by paramedics.
One man lay motionless on the ground. Some protesters gathered around him. There started shouting at the police officers. After a few minutes, the officers opened fire on them causing them to flee. They left the injured man who was by then being assisted by paramedics.
Several armed private security was also at the scene.
Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party dressed in red t-shirts had converged on the school in the morning to demand that the "excluded" children be enrolled regardless of the language they speak. Members of the ruling African National Congress party also joined the protest.
This week the high court in Pretoria ruled in the school's favour preventing the Gauteng department of education from compelling it to take in the English speaking children.
Earlier in the morning, a parent was assaulted by protesters as he arrived at the school in full view of the police.
But by lunchtime, the police began firing rubber bullets at the protesters to disperse them. Police said at least 10 people had been arrested.
Meanwhile, the Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said all 55 children had now been accommodated at a nearby school.
On Monday Lesufi said his department intended to appeal the judgment made by Judge Bill Prinsloo that 55 English-speaking learners could not be admitted at Hoërskool Overvaal due to capacity constraints.
“Let the Constitutional Court legalise racism, let the Constitutional Court say you are wrong in requesting our children just to study, sing and dance together. We are not asking for anything, we are saying let our children sing, dance and study together. If that is unlawful, let someone come and tell us why?”
Parents of the learners who were denied access to the school had threatened to shut it down.
“Away with racism away, no school on Wednesday. Down with racism down. We are tired of the agenda of white people,” they shouted inside the North Gauteng High Court.
Later Lesufi told the visibly upset parents that there was no need to be violent and assured them that, one day, their children will attend the school.
“I know we are emotionally hurt all of us, I know that this is a major setback for our transformation agenda, it’s a major setback for our struggle for a non-racial society, but as I said, ours is not for revenge, ours is for equality. I’m pleading with you, let’s not doing things that will embarrass our struggle for a better society,” Lesufi said to a sound of whistles and clap of hands from parents.
Warner Human, one of the legal representatives of the school, insisted that the school is not racist, but insisted that the department had not followed the right procedure.
“As you have seen in what has been shown by the judge, was that the school had on its side made earnest attempts to show that there is no physical capacity. There is material shortcoming on the side of the department,” he said.
He further said the school doesn’t promote racism.
African News Agency/ANA