DA to investigate handling of Schweizer-Reneke racism allegations - report

Schweizer-Reneke teacher Elana Barkhuizen in Labour Court in Johannesburg. (Ntwaagae Seleka/News24)
Schweizer-Reneke teacher Elana Barkhuizen in Labour Court in Johannesburg. (Ntwaagae Seleka/News24)

An internal investigation into the DA’s handling of the alleged racism at a Schweizer-Reneke school is reportedly underway. The internal investigation is led by Deputy Federal Chairperson Refiloe Nt’sekhe, according to Netwerk24.

A racial storm erupted after Elana Barkhuizen, a teacher at Laerskool Schwizer-Reneke, sent a picture – seemingly depicting racial segregation in another teacher's class – to parents in a closed WhatsApp group on the first day of school in January this year. The photograph depicts white and black pupils sitting at separate desks in the classroom.

A parent – who allegedly holds a grudge against the school relating to school fees – distributed the picture on social media.

At the time various people, including Luyolo Mphithi, DA youth leader, suggested the photo pointed to racism, states the Netwerk24 article.

The uproar ultimately led to Barkhuizen's suspension.

She claimed that the black children had been seated separately at that time because they could not understand Afrikaans and were given access to a Setswana interpreter.

Other pictures depicting the children mingling openly had also been distributed. Two black parents confirmed Barkhuizen's version of events to Netwerk24.

At the end of January, the Labour Court in Johannesburg ruled that her suspension by the school governing body (SGB) and Department of Education was unlawful, in part because she had not been given an opportunity to clarify her version of the events.

Earlier this month, DA caucus chairperson Dr Annelie Lotriet wrote to Beeld in response to a report in which Barkhuizen expressed indignation over the party’s handling of the incident. Lotriet wrote that the DA acknowledged it was mistaken in the way in which it dealt with the incident and apologised for the effect on Barkhuizen. She added that the DA took the photo out of context.

 - Compiled by Nicole McCain

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