Category Archives: African Eye News Service

2010 Resistance: Pupils burn buildings to protest eviction

Pupils burn buildings to protest eviction

[IOL, 23 September 2008]

Thabisile Khoza and Tshwarelo Mogakane

Hundreds of toyi-toying schoolchildren picketed the 2010 World Cup stadium in Nelspruit after they torched a library and two classrooms in protest against being evicted from their schools.

The fire-bombed buildings are part of a new temporary prefabricated school built to accommodate pupils from the historic Cyril Clark High and John Mdluli Primary in Matsafeni.

The original schools have been earmarked for demolition to make way for a parking lot for the R1-billion stadium.

“The learners started protesting outside the stadium at 7am on Monday morning. We deployed a heavy police presence, but the officers were distracted by some of the demonstrators when suddenly the buildings were torched,” said Nelspruit police spokesperson Inspector Dawie Pretorius.

Police then fired teargas into the crowd and forced the protesters away from the stadium into the fenced yard of the temporary school.

Although police had not arrested anyone over the fires, they did arrest three pupils and three adult Matsafeni community members for allegedly smashing locks on a gate to the stadium construction site.

“We arrested the six suspected ringleaders, between the ages of 15 and 25, on charges relating to malicious damage to property,” said Pretorius.

Confirming that the protests at the stadium site had become an almost daily occurrence, Pretorius said the demonstrators complained that the new prefabricated school was impossible to study in.

“We suspect that the learners are not satisfied with conditions in the prefab schools. They say the classrooms are unhealthy and extremely hot,” he said.

Three of the protesters – Mavis Dube, 17, Tiger Mavuso, 18 and Jabulile Khoza, 16, – said that while their old schools were solidly built brick buildings, the new school was a flimsy “Zozo” building without ventilation or protection against the Lowveld’s humidity and heat.

“Up to six learners collapse each day because of the heat. Even the teachers no longer try to teach after break, because they know no one can concentrate,” explained Khoza.

“The politicians and city council all promised us a better, bigger brick school, but here we sit in Zozo huts. The old schools are still standing. We were kicked out so that the contractors could use them as offices.”

Mavuso added: “They are making us sacrifice our education and our health for the 2010 World Cup. The soccer will only last a short time but our lives will be ruined forever.”

Municipal spokesperson Vusi Sibiya said: “The mayor is not involved The people who must take responsibility are the provincial Education Department.”

Provincial education spokesperson Jasper Zwane is on holiday and referred all questions to spokesperson Kagiso Phatlane, who was unavailable for comment.

– African Eye News Service