SAHRC condemns burning of schools in Limpopo

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has condemned the burning of schools in the Vuwani District in Limpopo‚ which it says has affected tens of thousands of learners.

Official reports confirmed that 13 schools had been burnt through acts of arson while unofficial reports put the figure at 17 schools‚ it said.

The acts of arson were allegedly being committed by people who were allegedly opposed to a High Court decision in a demarcation matter involving the integration of Vuwani District into the Malamulele Municipality.

The SAHRC added that it recognised the right of people to assemble‚ demonstrate‚ picket and petition in an effort to advance their views. The right to assemble‚ demonstrate‚ picket and petition was recognised in terms of Section 17 of the South African Constitution.

“However‚ the right must be exercised in accordance with the law and as such should not be exercised in a manner that results in the destruction of public or private property‚” it stated.

“This right should be carried out with due regard to the rights of other people. While some protestors are free to advance their interests through assembly‚ demonstration‚ picketing and petitioning‚ resorting to burning of schools undermines the right to a basic education for thousands of children who are affected through these acts of arson‚” the commission added.

Whereas no loss of life or bodily injury had so far been reported‚ the burning of schools and other property might in due course result in injury to the residents in affected communities‚ it stated.

“The burning of schools has a direct negative impact on the right of children to realise their right to basic education.

“The SAHRC encourages the Limpopo Provincial government and all other relevant authorities to continue with efforts to try and engage with the protestors. Furthermore‚ the SAHRC welcomes the commitment made by the Limpopo Provincial government to ensure that as soon as order is restored mobile classes will be provided where needed so that children can continue with their classes.

“The SAHRC is‚ however‚ concerned that the destructive nature of the protest will result in the diversion of resources that could have been spent on improving education facilities being spent on rebuilding of school infrastructure and replacement of learning and teaching materials‚” the human rights watchdog said.

“The SAHRC calls on protestors to conduct their protest action in accordance with the law and at all times refrain from violence and damaging of property.

“The South African Police Service is urged to protect life and property and ensure a peaceful return to normalcy in all affected areas‚” it added.

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