School boycotts flare

Teachers cited as a major contributing factor the shooting of Ashley Kriel, 20, by police in Cape Town last Thursday. Kriel was a former Bonteheuwel student activist who fled the country to join the African National Congress.

His funeral tomorrow is expected to draw thousands of mourners. The affected schools fall under the Department of Education and Culture which has come under fire from community organisations for persisting with misconduct charges against 72 teachers. The teachers allegedly refused to administer exams at the end of 1985. The first hearing starts on Monday. A department representative said attendance was “very low” at “a few” schools, but declined to elaborate.

Independent sources indicated that of the department’s 60-odd high schools on the Cape Flats, total stayaways occurred at least 14, while at several others pupils staged awareness programmes or were dismissed early by principals in a bid to defuse the situation. Sources said all three Bonteheuwel high schools were deserted yesterday – a day which community organisations had called to be one of mourning for Kriel.

On Wednesday, more than a thousand Bonteheuwel pupils gathered for a rally at Kriel’s former school, Bonteheuwel High, where they strung fences with placards reading “Our school belongs to the ANC”. In Manenberg a burning-tyro barricade was erected in a street and later dismantled by police. Students at one of three Manenberg high schools stayed away and those at another were sent home early, sources said. There were no reports of police action against pupils. 

Ashley Kriel’s last hours
More questions than answers surround the death of a 20-year-old Cape Town activist who left the country in 1985 to train as an ANC guerrilla and returned this year – to be shot ad this week. The family of Ashley Kriel and local community organisations were this week planning what is expected to be the biggest funeral Cape Town has seen in a long time.  Meanwhile, police said in a written statement that he had died from a bullet fired by his own weapon during a scuffle with two policemen who tried to disarm and arrest him at the Athlone house they had been informed he was staying at.

The statement does not explain why Kriel was wearing handcuffs, as claimed by Imtiaz Ismail, who lived in the house with Kriel. Ismail said he returned from an errand at about 1.30pm last Thursday to find the housemate he had known as “James” lying on his side at the kitchen steps.

“As I pulled into the driveway three or four plain-clothes policemen told me to stop. I switched off the car. They told me and the friend with me to stand with our hands against the car and they searched us, asking me who lived in the house. “I walked round to the back of the house as I usually do with, the policemen following. I saw James lying on his side. There was blood on his forehead. His arms were stretched out in front of him and he was wearing handcuffs.

I asked the one policeman what was wrong with James and he told me ‘Hy is doodgeskiet omdat by ‘n terroris is’ (He has been shot dead because he is a terrorist).” He said Kriel had been boarding with himself and his sister since early May. Kriel’s married sister, Michel Assure, 24, was the only family member at home at 54B Vlamboom Street, Bonteheuwel, when two policemen arrived last Friday morning.

The family was unaware that Ashley, who had “disappeared” in August 1985, was dead. The woman said information they gathered at the scene prompted led them to believe that there many unanswered questions about how and why their brother died. They believe police watched the house until they were certain Kriel was alone so there would be no witnesses to their actions. They believe he had been handcuffed when he was shot. A private pathologist conducted another post mortem this week.

A member of the SAP public relations division in the Western Cape, Lieutenant Attie Laubscher, said police had taken note of the family’s allegations but was not prepared to comment as the matter was sub judice, pending a police investigation ordered by the divisional commissioner. Later, in a prepared statement, he said: “Kriel left the country in December 1985 and crossed the border into Lesotho illegally before going to Angola where he received training from the banned ANC.

“During April 1987 he returned to South Africa and on Thursday July 9 the SAP, following information received, went to the house in Athlone. “At the backdoor of the house Kriel threatened them with a firearm. A scuffle broke out between the police and Kriel in order to take the weapon and arrest him. A shot went off and KrieI was fatally wounded, by his own weapon.

Police confiscated a weapon, ammunition and a hand grenade. An inquest docket had been opened and was being investigated, Laubscher said. As his family and community organisations prepared for a huge funeral tomorrow, the Western Cape region of the United Democratic Front questioned whether Kriel had been assaulted, handcuffed or “subdued” before he was shot, saying answers to these queries were “crucial” if “deep suspicion” within the community about the circumstances in which he died was to be allayed.

At a memorial service last Sunday, representatives of youth and community organisations paid tribute to “a warm, friendly young who cared deeply for those suffering under apartheid”.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail newspaper

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Gaye Davis
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