Blazing barricades as pupils clash with police
Western Cape schools flared in revolt this week as thousands of pupils engaged in stayaways, demonstrations, rallies and marches, clashing violently with police. In echoes of the turmoil of 1985, pupils set up burning tyro barricades, stoned police and other vehicles and were teargassed and baton-charged by police in a number of incidents across the Peninsula starting last Friday.
Instructions issued to principals in high schools in Mitchells Plain – scene of several clashes between police and pupils - indicate a hard-line response by the police. According to information given to the Weekly Mail, principals were informed by the regional inspector of "coloured" education that police were "sick and tired" of pupils disrupting tuition. In future police would:
- Enter school grounds and "physically put" pupils back in their classrooms if they were discovered standing around outside
- Remain until teachers 'could continue teaching
- Thereafter keep the school under continuous observation
The instructions have precipitated an apparent conflict between police and the Department of Education and Culture in the House of Representatives, which administers "coloured" schools. However, the Western Cape police liaison officer, Lieutenant Attie Laubscher, told the Weekly Mail that police and the department were in "close contact" to ensure pupils attended school and that "no intimidation" took place.
Some principals are unhappy about the instructions, believing they could fuel a situation one described as "very sensitive and explosive. "It's as if they are trying to force normality at the point of a gun," he said. "If the authorities overreact, this thing will go up in a ball of flame and then we'll be back in 1985." The plight of the Sharpeville Six, the continued detention and harassment of teachers and pupils in "coloured" schools, the sacking and suspension of several teachers in black schools and the fact that several hundred pupils have been denied re-admission to black schools were cited, as the basis for this week's protests.
Police confirmed the following.
- Last Friday Rylands High pupils staged a placard demonstration in support of the Sharpeville Six, then set up a burning tyro barricade stoning police before being dispersed
- On Monday, as pupils at black and "coloured" schools staged stay- aways, walkouts and held alternative programmes around the Sharpeville Six, police clashed with about 500 University of the Western Cape students after a campus rally attended by several thousand students. A policeman had his jaw broken by a rock, police said. In Mitchells Plain, police teargassed high school pupils heading for a mass rally at Mondale High School. Police surrounded the premises before again firing teargas to disperse pupils. Teargas and batons were also used to disperse pupils who later gathered at Glendale High School. At the nearby Spine Road High School, police teargassed pupils who, according to sources at the school, had been attending classes and were in the grounds because it was break-time. In the Elsies River and Bonteheuwel areas, police vans and a post of flee vehicles were stoned. On Monday night, a meeting called by the Western Cape Teachers' Union in protest against the continuing detention and alleged police harassment of teachers and pupils at Manenberg High School was prevented from going ahead by police acting in terms of the Emergency regulations.
- On Tuesday police prevented pupils from holding a rally at Cedars High in Mitchells Plain before baton, charging them. Monday also saw "total stayways" at eight black high schools. The Department of Education and Training would not confirm or deny this. In "coloured" schools, Weekly Mail sources reported stayaways and walkouts at schools in Mitchells Plain, Athlone, Bonteheuwel, Salt River, Wynberg, Elsies River, Grassy Park and Retreat on Monday. On Wednesday Mitchells Plain pupils staged walkouts in