What you need to know: Racial tensions at Mpumalanga school turn violent

On Monday, a physical fight broke out at the Witbank Technical High School in Mpumalanga between parents. An alleged incident of racism last week led to Black parents protesting outside of the school that morning. 

Read more: In her own words: former Cornwall student shares her experience of racism at the school

Read more: We need a better action plan to combat racism in schools

Black students at Witbank Technical High School have been speaking out about long-standing racial tensions and incidents since this morning. 

More clarity on the protest was given by a black parent. He explains the protest stemmed from an incident that could be called a schoolyard scuffle. But because it occurred between a white and black student; it cannot be seen without a racial lense. The parent called on the MEC for education of Mpumalanga to step in and quell the situation.There is a lack of accountability from the principal and the MEC as the incident was not handled with the proper protocols.

 “I’m sure if it was two white kids fighting we wouldn’t be here. If it was two blacks fighting they would have been silently expelled. There was going to be no issue. So no because a black person assaulted, or rather protected himself against a white kid- and he lost. That is why we are here”. 

A white parent said  there was no intention to be violent, and that any physical violence that ensued was to protect the learners. He added the violence was instigated by the black parents. 

MEC of Education in Mpumalanga, Bonakele Majuba suspended schooling for a week to allow a cooling off period. The period will allow for a thorough investigation of learners who were suspended that led up to this morning’s protest. Majuba reiterated the importance of learners exams and that all learners will get an opportunity to do so. The MEC has appealed to the community not to involve outsiders, who do not have children at the school. He says this is adding to the tensions and violence; and worsening race relations at the school. Protesters are alleged to have come from as far as Pretoria.  

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) Mpumalanga Provincial Secretary, Walter Hlaise confirmed that racism is not a new issue at Witbank Technical High School. Tensions have existed for years,and it is time the Department of Education deals with it. 

In an article a month ago we asked for a better action plan to combat racism in schools. Experts agreed a mindshift needs to happen on a national scale. These incidents are microcosms of South African society. The Government’s National Action plan to combat racism is to integrate anti-racism training and education into the curriculum. 

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.