Outrage over Somerset West school's 'Nazi salute' photo, but principal calls it 'Roman salute'

2019-08-07 14:04


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People have reacted with outrage to a photo on the homepage of the Somerset West Private School, which shows three pupils holding their arms up in the fashion of a "Nazi salute".

The principal of the school, CM Coetzer, has since denied the pose is a Nazi salute, instead inferring that it is a "Roman salute", without giving any reason for why the pupils posed in that manner.

The image, which was taken down after growing outrage on social media and shortly after News24 sent an enquiry to the school on Wednesday morning, was of the 2018 matric class.

It has been replaced by a similar class photo with more formal poses.

Coetzer's statement read: "We do not promote or support any particular political or religious views. Learners are encouraged to develop as individuals, think freely and to express themselves freely, provided that such expression does not impair the dignity of others."

He added, "It has come to our attention that there have been objections to a matric photo where some learners give what appears to be a Roman salute. While we don't believe that the learners intended to offend anyone, we have removed the photograph from the website."

The school opened its doors in 1998. On its website, under vision and mission, the school lists the values of empowerment, transparency and integrity, excellence, ubuntu and innovation.

It states: "We provide staff, parents and learners with an environment which nurtures social, academic and spiritual strength. Within our intense focus on the development of accountability, responsibility and respect in addition to the recognition and acceptance of individuality and diversity, we allow learners to embrace their own perfection and brilliance."

Under integrity, it states: "Ethical and respectful behaviour is expected of everyone and it is vital in the development of valuable members of society who have the ability to respond in compassionate ways towards others."

Social media users were angered by the post.

Luke Waltham tweeted, "This is seriously harmful and concerning since this salute is full of hate and bigotry. South Africa, we need to do more. We must make it known that we do not accept Nazism at all!"

While Guy McDonald wrote, "How is this an acceptable cover photo for your website Somerset West Private School? Or are you indeed Nazi empathisers?"

Note: The faces of the pupils have been obscured because News24 abides by the SA press code, which states that in the spirit of the Bill of Rights, minors (aged 18 and under) cannot be identified without the consent of a parent or legal guardian.

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