[lg policy] South Africa: Police Vehicle Petrol-Bombed in Hoërskool Overvaal Protests

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sat Jan 20 10:39:21 EST 2018

South Africa: Police Vehicle Petrol-Bombed in Hoërskool Overvaal Protests

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Protests continued for a second day outside Hoërskool Overvaal in
Vereeniging on Thursday. Demonstrators persisted with their demand for the
school to scrap its Afrikaans-only language policy which they claim is used
to exclude black learners.

Learners arriving for school in the morning had to walk pass heavily armed
riot police who kept watch outside the main entrance as protesters
mobilised down the road. Dozens of parents decided to wait outside the
school instead of leaving, saying that they were looking out to ensure that
no harm came to the children inside the school.

A parent of a grade 8 learner said her son had just started high school and
insisted that he attend class today despite the disruptions outside the
gates. "My son was a bit concerned about the violence but he said that he
wasn't afraid to go to school. He wants to learn and we are very happy with
the way the school has treated us as parents as they have assured us that
security is in place to keep our kids safe," said the mother.

A grandparent of another learner said that he was unhappy with the way the
police handled the situation yesterday. "Why do they let them toyi-toyi
outside the main gate and burn tyres? Why don't the police block the guys
from coming into this street? The police are useless," said the man.

Down the road from the main entrance taxis started arriving carrying more
protesters, many of whom were wearing Congress of South African Students
T-shirts. They began marching towards the other end of the road where many
of the parents had gathered. Separated by police tape, the opposing groups
began hurling insults at one another and had to be separated by riot police
as the situation became increasingly tense. From inside the school teachers
and staff could be seen filming the altercations with their phones. Some
learners looked on from the balconies.

Some protesters attempted to set tyres on fire but they were stopped by
protest leaders who said that they did not want a repeat of yesterday's
violence. Others moved to barricade the main road running next to the
school. A local resident was almost stoned by the mob as he attempted to
remove the barricade so his car could pass. Police were quick to respond to
all flare-ups and moved to calm the situation.

Later in the day, after the learners had been picked up by their parents, a
police vehicle was hit by a petrol bomb. A riot policeman extinguished the
fire as his colleagues began making mass arrests. Most of the protesters
were made to lie on the ground and they were then ushered into the back of
a Nyala and another police van. About 30 people were arrested and taken
away by the police.

"I'm not sure why they arrested all those boys. We just saw people running
and so we also started running. They pointed their guns at us and said that
we should lie on the ground and they took all the young boys and put them
in the police cars," said a protester who identified herself as Pinky.

Shaka Radebe, a local ANC leader, said that most of the protesters who were
arrested yesterday had been released on bail. He also said that some of the
parents wanted to meet with an ANC delegation to discuss the way forward.
"We want to meet and discuss if we can meet each other half way. If there
is common ground we can proceed to meet with school management," said

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said that the issues must be resolved
as a matter of urgency as no child should go to school in fear of rubber
bullets and teargas.

A member of the School Governing Board said he was instructed not to speak
to the media, so unfortunately we can't give comment from the school.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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