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SAHRC clears Brackenfell High of racism claims over ‘whites-only’ matric dance

24 March 2022

The commission exonerated the school from the planning, funding, advertising or hosting of the event.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has cleared Brackenfell High School in Cape Town of racism allegations after a group of matric pupils in 2020 held a private farewell, which allegedly excluded black pupils.

The SAHRC on Thursday announced that it had concluded its investigation into racism allegations surrounding the event.

The commission found that the school did not host a “whites-only matric ball” and therefore did not discriminate – whether directly or indirectly, fairly or unfairly – against grade 12 pupils on the ground of race.

Brackenfell High was at the centre of much controversy in November 2020 after violent protests by political parties and parents erupted outside the school over the alleged exclusion of black matric pupils from the farewell.

The school attempted to distance itself from the allegations, repeatedly saying the event was private, and not racially exclusive.
SAHRC findings

The SAHRC found that some of the school’s officials knew about the event as details of the matric ball were shared by parents, guardians and pupils of the school on WhatsApp, Facebook and by word of mouth.

The commission also found that four teachers had been invited in their private capacity, but the evidence before it exonerated Brackenfell High from the planning, funding, advertising or hosting of the event.

“The commission further found that the organisers of the event also did not directly or indirectly discriminate against learners on the ground of race,” the SAHRC said in a statement.

The SAHRC thanked all pupils, parents and guardians as well as the Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) for their cooperation during its investigations.
WCED report

The SAHRC’s report corroborated the WCED’s investigative report into the Brackenfell dance furore.

In January last year, the department found that the school had not broken any rules when the group of matric pupils held their private farewell.

The probe found that on 11 September 2020, parents were sent a letter by Brackenfell High School confirming that the 2020 matric farewell had been cancelled due to Covid-19.

A parent whose daughter was a matric at the school then decided to “do something special for her following the cancellation of the school’s farewell.”

The parent and daughter opted to arrange a private function on a wine farm on 17 October, with tickets costing R500 each.

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the event was limited to 100 people, and that the invitation was widely circulated on WhatsApp.

Class representatives were reportedly asked to distribute the invitation to their class’s WhatsApp groups as well by the parent, which Schäfer said was allowed by the principal.

However, the invite was also open to pupils outside Brackenfell High, whose matric farewells had also been cancelled.

In total, 42 pupils from Brackenfell and 30 others from surrounding schools attended the event.

The WCED said the school committed to ensuring that any forms of racial tension would be dealt with through a diversity committee, among other proposed initiatives at the time.

But opposition parties like the ANC and EFF described the report as a whitewash, accusing the department of covering-up racism allegations at the school.

Source: The Citizen

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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