DA govt’s school closures an apartheid throwback – Marius Fransman

Marius Fransman

Speech by ANC Western Cape leader, Marius Fransman, on Save our Schools (SOS), Bishop Lavis Uniting Reformed Church Hall, July 1 2012

Today as we congregate knowing full well that the purpose of our meeting is not to celebrate and or commemorate any special occasion, but rather that we come together at a time of serious crisis and adversity for 27 poor coloured and African communities across the Western Cape both urban and rural.

We come here today because Helen Zille’s DA government intends shutting down 27 more schools in the Western Cape. All of these schools affected are based in the poorer coloured and African urban and rural areas, including here in Bishop Lavis.

Specifically 21 of these schools are rural based affecting our mainly coloured poor.

These schools include:

Krombeksrivier NGK PS;
Langkloof PS;
Denneprag PS;
Redlands PS;
Rietfontein PS;
Rodewal UCC PS;
Warmbad-Spa PS;
Welbedacht UCC PS;
Wittedrif PS;
Rondevlei PS;
Bracken Hill PS (all Eden and Central Karoo areas);
Lavisrylaan PS;
Valpark PS (both Metro North);
Tonko Bosman PS;
Bergrivier PS;
Boplass PS;
Hoopsrivier NGK PS;
Wansbek NGK PS (all Cape Winelands);
Nuhoop PS;
Klipheuwel NGK PS;
Urionskraal NGK PS (all West Coast);
Beauvallon Secondary;
Peak View Secondary;
Protea PS;
Athwood PS;
Bishop Lavis; and
Zonnebloem Nest (all Metro Central).

Many of these schools have been in existence for more than 30 years and if this intention to close the schools is implemented, it will annihilate decades of these communities’ history and sense of identity.

Equally so the impact and consequence of this decision threatens the very livelihood, fabric of our society and future of our children within the mainly coloured rural communities, urban African poorer townships in the metro as well as some of the poor coloured communities of the Cape Flats, destining our coloured and African children who are already poor to further poverty.

However, the DA government says: Don’t be offended, you will never walk alone! In fact you are 1 of 27 poor coloured and African schools that ‘Helen Zille’s government’ intends closing in the Western Cape!

‘Don’t be offended,’ Helen Zille’s DA government says, it is doing this ‘in the best interests of the whole of the Western Cape!’

‘Don’t be offended,’ the DA government says, it has not consulted with the communities including and amongst others the Bishop Lavis community first, before announcing the intention that your schools should be closed, as it knows ‘better than you what’s in your best interests!’

As I sit here today I am sure that many of you, mums, dads, aunts and uncles come here today with a sense of shock, disbelief, déjà vu (seen before), deception, anger and betrayal to the news that Helen Zille’s DA government intends closing down our schools.

Déjà vu because this is the same “kragdadige maniere” (forceful means) we experienced under the Apartheid Government.

When I heard the news of the letter of the intention by Helen Zille’s government to close down the Bishop Lavis School, amongst others, I was taken back to a time of the harshness of the Apartheid Government many of us were forced to grow up under.

I was, as I am sure many of you were, filled with the same hurtful emotions, anger, anguish and tears that we had to endure each day growing up under Apartheid.  I was reminded once again how our parents, aunties and uncles, some who may even be here today, were uprooted and ripped out of our communities in Constantia, Clarement, Bishops Court, District 6 and the Atlantic Seaboard.

I was reminded how we were divided as families and friends and dumped on the Cape Flats in areas such as Bishop Lavis, Bonteheuwel, Langa and Gugulethu as well as far flung areas such as Atlantis without any consultation with our communities by the then White Apartheid Government.

Then, just like today, our parents, aunties and uncles received a letter instructing them to move, uprooting wholesale our families and forcing us to rebuild our communities all over again.

I am also reminded of the cries of our grandparents, parents and even the dogs and cats of Bishop Lavis asking: What have we done to deserve this? “Senzeni na? Senzeni na?” (What have we done?)

I am sure as we sit here today we are again asking the question, what have we done to deserve this (with the closing down of our school without consultation)?

This decision of Helen Zille’s DA government also reminded me of the turbulent 80’s when I was a student and schooled in Bishop Lavis and how the government then also made unilateral decisions to close the schools and tertiary institutions of poorer coloured and African communities.

Telling us then that they knew best what’s in our best interests in the same way that the DA government is telling us today that it knows what’s in our best interests!

I recall the community campaigns to save our teacher colleges of Zonnebloem and Wesley in 1989!

I recall the running battles with the apartheid security police and our perseverance as communities in pushing back the “kragdadige maniere”‘ of the Apartheid regime then.

I remember the clarion cries of the communities of Bishop Lavis, Bontehewel, Gugelethu and Langa to Mitchells Plain, Mannenberg and Mbekweni that ‘We shall not be moved. We are like a tree standing at the riverside. We shall not be moved!’

During those tumultuous years there was no time for tears. Today too there should be no time for tears as we embark on a provincial wide SOS campaign to Save Our Schools!

I am shocked, as I am sure you are, that archaic apartheid style tactics of unilateral and insensitive advice and decision making by a small group of mainly white DA politicians such as MEC Donald Grant can still happen today.

I am shocked and disappointed that a group of white DA people led by MEC Grant can draw conclusions on what is best for our communities without listening to our communities first.

More so, when it has no experience of what happens in our communities given that they – including the MEC himself – grew up in leafy rich white suburbs and were schooled in posh private schools.

I am shocked that decisions which directly affect our lives can still take place without any community consultation 18 years after the fall of Apartheid and the dawn of our new democracy.

This is more so since we have a constitution which is the highest law in our land and the foundation of our democracy. A constitution that requires our government to ensure effective developmental public participation with communities in respect of decisions that affects them.

Our constitution, given our history of colonialism and apartheid, was and is deliberate in its spirit and intention that government must actively and directly engage with our communities in matters that affect their rights, such as the closing of a school in order that we never again have to experience “kragdadige” government decision making.

A letter to the principal informing him/her to tell the community of government’s intention to close the school and that the community should respond thereafter through written representations is not the community consultation and public participation that is envisaged by our constitution and not the style of government we fought for.

I am shocked by Helen Zille’s DA government’s utter disregard for the spirit and intention of our Constitution as it relates to public participation and community consultation given the constant claims by the DA that it is the guardian and custodian of our constitution.

As communities you should rightfully expect that a decision as important as this which affects the lives of so many of our families should have been done in direct consultation with our people.

I am shocked by the stupidity of the DA government’s decision that most of the schools that the DA intends to close are rural schools which cater for our mainly coloured rural poor, a sector already identified by our President Zuma in his State of the Nation address this year as a key problem when he said: “Grade 10 dropouts appear to be a problem, particularly in the rural and farm areas of the Western Cape.”

I am shocked by the indifference of the DA government to this problem who to date have not developed any plan to adequately address it.

Instead its response is to further exacerbate it by closing down more rural schools when instead they should be addressing the root causes of the problem.

I am, as you are, disappointed by the stubbornness and arrogance of the DA Government of Helen Zille and MEC Donald Grant, in particular, to refuse to directly engage with our communities here today after having been invited by me to debate the merits of there thinking directly with the affected communities.

Instead it seems the DA government of madam Zille and MEC Grant is far more comfortable with and has more time to communicate on a community issue via the media and internet forums only, such as Politics Web rather than facing the community directly.

I am disappointed and offended by the racism implicit in this action that the largely white and middle class voices and opinions – who are the main audiences of these media forums – are far more important than the poorer coloured and African voices such as that in Bishop Lavis and who are directly affected by the decision.

I am disappointed and offended by the lack of sensitivity and paternalistic priorities of MEC Grant that the media and their middle-class readership have more to contribute to the debates and consequences of the closing of our schools in poorer coloured and African communities than the actual affected communities.

I am disappointed that the DA government of Madam Zille and MEC Donald Grant can adopt such a mechanical approach to community consultation and public participation through media engagements, letter writing and written representations.

I am worried that the absence of the MEC here today reeks of minimalist and malicious compliance leading one to believe that the DA government has already unilaterally decided that it will implement its decision to close the 27 schools and that the public participation process is a mere public relations formality.

I am disappointed that MEC Grant is not here today, because if he was, he would be pleasantly surprised by the important issues that are being raised by the communities in respect of the intended and unintended consequences of that decision to close the schools.

I am sure that had the DA government of Helen Zille attended this meeting it would then understand the effect of its intention to close the schools on issues of safety and security.

It would then understand the dangers that our children will have to face having to commute to other areas given the gang territorial culture on the Cape Flats.

The DA government would then understand and hear first hand how the decision to close schools will financially affect our already poverty stricken and poor communities as a result of increased commuting costs.

The DA government would then understand the social and emotional pain of having a community’s school closed down and its effect on social cohesion and sense of pride.

The DA government would then see for itself whether in fact the school is underperforming and if so, rather than shut it down, hear from the communities themselves what the government needs to do to and what resources it needs to provide in order to ensure that it delivers more optimal results.

The DA government would also see first hand and understand why there are allegedly dwindling numbers in some of these schools and in fact no decrease in numbers in some of the other schools such as Zonnebloem Nest as is declared.

The DA government would then hear straight from the horse’s mouth what the effect of closing these schools will have on the future of our children – particularly in the rural areas of the Western Cape.

This more so, given that the Western Cape has the highest high school drop out rate in the country for learners amongst the 16 to 18 year age group (up to grade 10) at approximately 26%, which is almost double the national average.

I wonder what the reasons are other than racism, paternalism and insensitivity as to why the DA Government refuses to come to Bishop Lavis and all the other communities affected and engage with the communities directly.

Is it because it fears that it would then expose its lies and deception in respect of its lack of service delivery in the poorer coloured and African communities?

Is it because the DA government would then have to face the reality of a lack of service delivery in the Bishop Lavis area such as, for example, its failure to deliver new human settlements for all the backyarders which was promised since 2009 and have for three consecutive years failed to deliver on?

Is it because the DA government would then have to confront the consequences of its biased service delivery in favour of historically white middle class areas and the protection of white privilege first hand?

Is it because the DA government would have to explain why it closes down schools only in the poorer coloured and African areas of the Western Cape whilst it claims as per its budget speech that the education budget for 2012 /13 has increased by 13% and constitutes 35% of the Provincial Budget?

Is it because the DA government would have to explain that all the additional money is still going to the more privileged schools given that the budget has been growing year on year, yet it wants to close down 27 largely coloured rural and African urban schools?

Is it because the DA government would perhaps have to explain to the communities and thereby expose its deception that its so-called successes it claims of building 26 new schools from 2009 -2014 is all spin and fallacy?

This in the context of its intention of closing down 27 schools in poorer coloured and African communities this year in addition to 16 other African and coloured schools that have already been shut down since 2009, whilst the schools in the leafy white middle class suburbs are not at all affected by closures.

Is it because the DA government will then have to directly face the communities that are most affected by the fact that the Western Cape has the highest drop out rate for high schools in the country, without having any action plan and response to address this problem affecting mainly coloured and African communities? Yet it intends to further aggravate the problem by closing down more schools.

Is it because the DA government would then have to expose the fact that most of the schools that it intends closing are the “Platteland” (rural) schools affecting largely 7 – 15 year old coloured rural children, destining them to a future of unskilled piece meal poorly paid jobs and a life of poverty and exploitation by the mainly white farmers?

Is it because its politics of deception will be exposed when it has to explain the contradiction of closing down 27 mainly African and coloured schools whilst at the same time complaining that the Western Cape experience a drastic influx of learners from other provinces?

Is it because the myth and fantacy flights of spin of all the new schools it delivers will be debunked given that it is closing as many if not more schools in the historically coloured and African communities?

Is it because it will have to face the wrath of the approximately 4 000 coloured and African learners from our largely poorer areas who will be affected by this decision and the approximately 150 educators and their families who too will be affected by this decision?

Is it because its politics of deflection in education will be exposed? In other words: Is it because the real reason for its intention to close these 27 schools will be exposed?

The real reason I believe is that all this government cares about is spinning statistics that shows that its education system is the best in the country.

Instead of ensuring substantive change to reach this goal its intention is to short circuit it by shutting down as many coloured and African schools which may not be performing optimally in order to artificially up its performance statistics.

However the DA government must know that it cannot forever hide the fact that it does not have the appetite to deal with performances of the problems simply because the problem affects mainly coloured and African communities only.

The DA government must know that its politics of deflection and deception in education to protect white privileged students and schools only cannot last forever. You can fool some of the people all of the time, you can fool all the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time!

I am sure there is a sense of disbelief and betrayal amongst many of you, that Helen Zille’s DA government can be so insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of these communities whilst the very DA government of Zille was voted into power by many of the people in these communities now affected.

However whilst I share the feelings of déjà vu and anger with many of you, I am not surprised at the latest actions and decisions of the DA government of Helen Zille since the 27 schools which it intends to close are all schools that cater for the poor coloured and African communities.

This politics of racism, deception and racist service delivery only to the leafy white suburbs, is nothing new.

The DA government has since 2009 shown that it’s commitment to delivery and engagement is only with the white constituency and for the protection of white privilege only. Our communities are only important to it when it is time to vote.

The question that we as communities affected by this issue need to then ask is what must be done in view of the fact that you have a DA government led by Helen Zille that is insensitive to the needs, voices and aspirations of the poor coloured and African communities?

What must be done given that we have a DA provincial government that cares more for the perpetuation of white privilege and the children attending schools in the leafy white suburbs of Bishop Court rather than Bishop Lavis?

What must be done in light of the fact that you have a MEC that does not want to directly engage with the community of Bishop Lavis in Bishop Lavis – here, today – but rather with the privileged white and middleclass communities via the media?

What must be done in lieu of the possibility that the DA led government of Helen Zille has for all intended purposes already decided that these 27 schools must be closed and that the process followed is a mere mechanical and malicious exercise in public participation?

What must done to end this racist, arrogant and “kragdadige maniere” that has become the hallmark of the DA government of Helen Zille reminiscent of the dark days of Apartheid?

1) They say hindsight is the only exact science and that we must learn from the past. If the DA government of today does not want to engage with the community directly, then we must revert to the same tactics that made the kragdadige Apartheid government listen to us by ensuring united community mass action in defence of our rights;

2) In the same spirit of the 80’s, as communities affected by this intention of the DA government to close your schools, you must be vigilant and committed to a sustained provincial wide campaign to save our schools and renew the spirit of  “We shall not be Moved”; and

3) If the MEC does not want to come to the mountain (our communities) then the mountain must march to the MEC. As a community therefore we must unite and ensure a mass march shortly in order that our voices will be heard!

Today as we congregate in this church hall on the 1st July 2012, it is also the year that the ANC celebrates its Centenary Celebrations. As part of these celebrations this month we are also celebrating the life and legacy of our esteemed former President Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years incarcerated in jail in order that we can enjoy the fruits of democracy, freedom and the fall of Apartheid.

It is therefore ironic as I mentioned in my introduction that today as we congregate at this church it was not to celebrate and or commemorate this special occasion of Madiba, but rather that we came together at a time of serious crisis and adversity for 27 poor coloured and African communities across the Western Cape.

Yet, there is no contradiction in celebrating this month, and what better way to pay tribute to the life and legacy of President Mandela than through a community campaign and spirit of activism that seeks to protect the ideals he has fought for and was incarcerated mostly here in this province for 27 years for as well as being willing to die for his principles.

Let us pay tribute to the life and legacy of President Mandela by ensuring that the spirit of selflessness and sacrifice lives on in our communities by preventing the DA government from closing our 27 schools in our poorer coloured and African communities and not like the DA: closing a school for every year Madiba spent in jail for his beliefs and ideals for a free country.

Let us dedicate each year of incarceration of the life of our leader Mandela to campaign to save each of the 27 schools and have 27 meetings in the areas of the 27 schools to commemorate Madiba.

Let us move forward uniting all 27 schools and communities affected in action based on the single objective of Saving Our Schools and making the clarion call that “We shall not be Moved”.

Issued by the ANC Western Cape, July 2 2012

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