Brackenfell High interdict bid: EFF, school duke it out in court over violence

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Western Cape High Court. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundIp)
Western Cape High Court. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundIp)

Brackenfell High School has argued before the Western Cape High Court that the Economic Freedom Fighters have a "history of violence", while the party hit back, saying the school was not treating racism as seriously as it should be.

The Cape Town School's Governing Body (SGB) last month brought an application for an interdict against the EFF protesting outside the school's grounds.

This following multiple protests near the school's premises over the past few weeks that ended in violence.

In court on Monday, footage of the 1 000-strong EFF protest, which saw chaos in the streets of the northern suburb last month, was played during proceedings.

One amateur cameraman said, "see how they run", as the footage showed protesters flee as stun grenades were fired.

Western Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai described commentary included in clips and photos of last month's violent protest in Brackenfell, as "triumphalism endemic in an arrogant society".

"Why are you showing me this in my court?" an offended Desai asked Advocate Marius Verster, for the school.

READ | Brackenfell High: Education dept finds no evidence 'private party' excluded pupils on basis of race

Verster responded that he didn't agree with the comments, but was using the clip to show that the EFF had not complied with the conditions imposed by the City of Cape Town in granting them permission to protest.

The school had persisted with their application as the EFF had threatened to continue with their action.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, for the EFF, said while children should be protected, it must be from, "imbibing racism", not, "cocooning them from stun grenades".

He pointed out that it was common cause that the EFF had twice in November protested peacefully against racism, the second time coming under attack by, "racism hooligans and vigilantes".

And while the school in a communique a day after the violence described the attack on the party members as, "disgraceful", Mpofu pointed out that it had that very day approached the Western Cape High Court, "to interdict the victims".

"It's a typical South African reaction," Mpofu said, slamming what he called the "audacity" of the application. He argued it should be dismissed as it was "frivolous".

"Racism is violence. It's the worst form of violence. It can't be perpetrated without violence or the threat thereof."

'EFF has history of violence'

But according to Verster, the EFF has a history of violence, commenting that they even, "have the word fighter in their name".

Desai dismissed this as the introduction of an "irrelevant factor".

"They also have economic in their name. Is this not also an important factor in one of the most unequal countries in the world?" he asked.

Mpofu argued that it was a fact that there had been a party which was attended only by white people.

He said an affidavit presented to the court showed that the principal had known of the party before it happened. It was also common cause that three teachers had attended, he maintained.

ALSO READ | Brackenfell: School's EFF protest interdict bid postponed again

"The school, at worst, is guilty of acquiescence," he argued, saying that racism was not being treated as serious as an offense as it should."

Desai agreed, saying that if the attendees had smoked dagga at the party, the school would certainly had stepped in, questioning why this was not the case if racism was apparent.

Prior to the recent mass gathering, Desai had declined to grant the SGB an urgent interdict after the EFF committed to not disrupt school activities ahead of the full case being heard. 

The party had applied and had been granted permission to stage their legal protest, with participants limited to 100.

The Western Cape Education Department on Monday in a statement confirmed its probe had found that no pupils were excluded from attending the private party on the basis of their race.

MEC Debbie Schäfer said its investigation corroborated reports that the event – which took place at a wine farm - was a private function, organised by a parent.

Desai said the matter was a sensitive one, as it, "marks the recurrence of inference of racism at schools".

The matter was postponed to 22 December for judgment.

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