Brackenfell High: Past pupils' open letter urges school to get to bottom of racism allegations

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Brackenfell community members standing 50m from the police.
Brackenfell community members standing 50m from the police.
PHOTO: Cebelihle Mthethwa/News24
  • A group of former Brackenfell High pupils asked the school to investigate racism allegations.
  • They recommend that a retired judge or senior counsel head a fact-finding mission.
  • The group feels this is the only way to show the school is serious about rooting out racism.

A group of past Brackenfell High School pupils wrote an open letter calling for a fact-finding mission, headed by a retired judge or senior counsel, into allegations of racism at the school.

The "petition" on asks the school to "open the wound" to get to the bottom of the racism complaints.

"We believe this is the only way to send a clear message to your current and former pupils, the schooling community and the country at large that Brackenfell High School is serious about rooting out racism," the petition states.

"Those who have suffered racism at the hands of the school should be allowed to come forward and disclose their experiences in a safe and formalised space. Only once the truth has been established, and all the voices have been heard, the healing process can start."

About 600 people had signed the petition, titled "Open letter to the principal and SGB of Brackenfell High School from alumni", by Thursday morning.

It was initiated by former pupils Nashira Davids (matriculant in 1998), Carryn-Ann Nel (2002), Siya Ntuntwana (2016), and *Adriaan Basson (1999), who is also News24's editor-in-chief.

Some people left comments to explain why they were signing.

"I'm signing because I want to play my part in making sure the school is held accountable and change is brought about," one person wrote.

"I'm signing because I want to see good come out of all the chaos," wrote another.

READ | Brackenfell stand-off could head to court as City of Cape Town goes after EFF for damages

The petition is directed at principal Jannie Muller and school governing body (SGB) chairperson Guillaume Smit and was started by "concerned and proud alumni of Brackenfell High School".

Davids explained why they called for the investigation.

"Everybody should have a safe space to speak about their experience," said Davids.

Davids added her time at the school left her with good memories, so she was disappointed when she heard the allegations about the matric party.

The open letter states that alumni are coming forward with "heinous stories about alleged discrimination at the hands of current and former teachers".

Experiences were also being shared on an Instagram account, and these need to be aired and not swept under the carpet, it stated.

They acknowledged the school's letter to parents, expressing regret for the pain caused to pupils of colour, and its commitment to resuming sensitivity and diversity training next year.

"However, we believe you cannot fully heal unless you open the wound," the petition stated.

The Brackenfell controversy was sparked when a party was arranged to make up for the traditional matric farewell, which couldn't take place because of Covid-19.

ALSO READ | Brackenfell High: Cape Town man who shone spotlight on private party lays intimidation charge

It is alleged that the party was attended by white pupils and that black pupils were left out.

There were reports of apologies from some people of colour who were invited but could not attend. However, the issue has continued to bubble unresolved.

A planned protest by an EFF delegation, upset about the racism allegations, ended in a violent confrontation near the school on 9 November.

As tension mounted, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) also attempted a march to the school, but was turned back when police fired stun grenades.

A group of EFF supporters arrived in Brackenfell on Friday for a protest arranged for 100 people. However, the turnout by EFF supporters was so large that negotiations ensued to allow 500 EFF supporters to attend the picket.

Teargas, a water cannon and stun grenades were used intermittently as police blockaded roads leading to the school.

The school stated that it was working on a diversity programme.

Smit said the SGB was expecting the petition to be sent to them by the principal, and added that they would comment later.

*Adriaan Basson is editor-in-chief of News24. He matriculated from Brackenfell High School in 1999.

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