The South African Police Service said it was taken by surprise when schools in Vuwani were set on fire. If that is true, it shouldn’t be, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Thursday.
“When viewed objectively they should have been aware of the imminent attacks,” the SAHRC said in a 60-page report — formally titled the SAHRC Report on National Investigative Hearing into the Impact of Protest-related Action on the Right to a Basic Education in South Africa.
Instead of protecting schools, police were deployed to other key points, including infrastructure designated under the National Key Points Act — an apartheid relic that allowed the government to demand the addition of security features at privately owned sites while making the owners pay.
Is the solution then to declare schools national key points?
So reasons the department of basic education, police told the SAHRC, and it was already in the process of attempting just that.
The SAHRC is not convinced. “This issue is fraught with challenges,” it said. “For example, the law governing national key points would require additional security measures be put in place, and providing this level of protection to all the schools in South Africa would have serious fiscal implication.
“Furthermore, national key points may not be photographed and taking such a stance with respect to schools, which are in essence public spaces, would create serious legal implications, potentially resulting in many people failing to adhere to this legal requirement,” the commission said.