‘Whites-only school prom’ protesters hit with tear gas and rubber bullets in South Africa

Rubber bullets, stun grenades, tear gas and water cannon have been used on protesters at a South African school accused of staging a “whites-only” prom.

Hundreds of demonstrators from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party gathered at Brackenfell High School in Cape Town, in a predominantly white neighbourhood, on Friday.

Some of the mainly black protesters were seen carrying machetes, sticks and golf clubs, but were met by a heavy police and private security presence, some of whom were in riot gear.

Video shows demonstrators running away as the missiles are fired.

Anger has centred on a school prom held earlier this month to which, allegedly, only white pupils were invited.

It was organised after the original party for students taking school-leaving exams was cancelled because of coronavirus restrictions, and limited to 100.

The school has said it was a private function organised by parents and had nothing to do with them, but it is alleged that teachers attended.

A public backlash began after a man shared a video of what he described on social media as a “whites-only” party.

The EFF, South Africa’s second-largest opposition party, said its followers were protesting peacefully when police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon on them.

Pictures from the scene showed officers firing what were identified as rubber bullets at the crowd as it dispersed.

Nearby fields were set alight and a local post office damaged, SAFM said, but there were no reports of any injuries.

Authorities said force became necessary after protesters ignored an instruction to stay at an agreed point and started approaching the school.

Black party members fought white parents outside the school in a similar demonstration last week.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town, released a statement calling for “peaceful and rational discourse and action… not division”.

He accused both sides of undermining non-racialism and called the issue “a symbol of unresolved issues from South Africa’s past”.

Approximately 80% of South Africa’s 60 million people are black but many remain in poverty 26 years after the end of apartheid.

The EFF says black people are held back by deep-rooted racism that remains in South Africa and especially in neighborhoods like Brackenfell.

Poppy Mailola, EFF deputy secretary general, said the community of Brackenfell “had even taught their children to be racist”.

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