Picture: Khanyisile Ngcobo

Johannesburg - Community members and local business on Tuesday strongly denied that protests at Klipspruit West Secondary School had anything to do with race.

This emerged on the first day of the South African Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC) four day investigative hearing into racism allegations at the school as well as the public unrest in Eldorado Park. 

Klipspruit-West Secondary made headlines after a racial protest erupted over the hiring of a black principal in July. It was believed that the largely coloured community wanted a coloured candidate to take over as principal.
The conflict also exposed racial tensions among black and coloured teachers.

Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi responded by deploying another official as a temporary principal and launched an investigation into racism and corruption allegations.

Among the speakers on the first day of the hearing was Patriots For Equality's Anthony Williams who rejected the notion that the protests had anything to do with race. 

"We're not suggesting that our schools must not be managed or governed by black African people. It's not true. 

"It's disingenuous for the Human Rights Commission to suggest we are racist when right now, the acting principal at Klipspruit is black... and has the full support of the community."

Williams explained that their issues spoke to the systematic marginalisation of coloured people by the government. 

He added that the issues went beyond Klipspruit West and extended to the whole South Africa, where coloured often had their backs against the wall.

"We've been enduring some pretty gruesome events for the past 24 years that have been largely ignored. That's what we need to interrogate," he said.

Williams also lashed out at the Gauteng Department of Education for twisting the situation and making it racial. 

His words were echoed by a representative of the Greater Eldorado Park Business Forum, Charis Pretorius, who said their concern with the appointment of a new principal at the school had nothing to do with race but more to do with process.

She said the business forum had been concerned by the process used to appoint a new head and had questioned why someone who had not taught at the school had been appointed.

"Unfortunately, the department of education decided that [the race] would be the card they play instead of addressing our concerns," she said.

Other speakers at the hearing included the South African Police Service as well as community members.

The SAHRC's hearing will take place until October 13 and will include submissions from numerous organisations as well as Klipspruit West staff members. 

The hearing continues.