'My life is at risk, but I am not scared' - Panyaza Lesufi on threats

2018-01-16 17:03
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. (Netwerk24)

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. (Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said he feels that his life is in danger after he and his family received threats, he revealed at a briefing in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The threats follow his decision to change the language policy at certain schools from Afrikaans only to dual language.

Lesufi also said the department was planning on appealing a decision which Judge Bill Prinsloo had made in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria - which may have heightened threats.

The court set aside a Gauteng Department of Education's decision to admit 55 pupils, who were to be taught in English, to Hoërskool Overvaal - an Afrikaans medium school.

READ: High Court sets aside bid to have Hoërskool Overvaal admit 55 English-speaking learners

The school argued that it did not have the capacity for the additional pupils and Judge Prinsloo found in its favour.

During Tuesday's press conference, Lesufi said: "You are scratching my car, you are [puncturing] my car, everything, where I go, I am monitored. Should I be scared? Surely not.

"Yes, my life is at risk, but I am not scared. I don’t need any additional protection. I joined this struggle knowingly," he said in response to a man in the audience.

The man, who identified himself as a journalist from Pro-Afrikaans Action Group (Praag), took issue with the fact that his question was not answered, while another journalist's question about language at schools was answered during a question and answer session.

An exasperated Lesufi said he knew that the journalists would come and said he was not scared of them.

"I am not in a state where I believe I need to watch my back…there are people who have called institutions asking when my children will be picked up, I will not go to the police. If I have to pay with my life for non-racialism, I will do that. I am not the first one," he said. 

Lesufi added that the only thing that would stop him was the achievement of a fully non-racial society where all children have access to equal opportunities.

"They are asking the whereabouts of my children, and all these things. I am not scared. This revolution was never won by those that are scared for their own lives…I am quite convinced that they know themselves what they are doing, and where I stand. I am more committed than ever before," Lesufi said. 

'No language is under threat'

He responded to the man again on a question about whether he hates Afrikaans-speaking people and the Afrikaans language. 

"There is no language that is under threat or going to be undermined. All languages are equal. I hate racism with a passion, I hate it. But I’m truly addicted to non-racialism…you can’t use excuses to try to perpetuate racism. Gauteng is not a playing ground for racism," he said to the man, who said that his forefathers had built Johannesburg.

He said all languages must be protected and given a space to prosper, adding that he was against schools that use language as an excuse to continue racism. 

"I have faith that they will change the language policies at some of these schools. Come 2019, Hoërskool Overvaal will have an English class there, if there is space available,"said Lesufi.  

The MEC explained that appealing the decision in the Hoërskool Overvaal matter did not amount to a disregard for the power of the judiciary.

"We are not questioning the judiciary, we are merely appealing the decision, which is something we have a right to do. If there is a conduct that is not appropriate, we must express that particular view," Lesufi said, adding that in his view the judgment was not a fair one. 

Lesufi is planning to meet with the 55 unplaced pupils, who hoped to attend the school on Tuesday afternoon.

Read more on:    panyaza lesufi  |  johannesburg  |  education

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