September 21, 2021

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Phoenix: Education department ‘working hard’ to ensure safety of learners

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Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga has addressed security issues in Phoenix, where racial tensions have intensified during the unrest and sporadic protests in the past two weeks.

Motshekga said there is a community initiative by the KZN Department of Education and different stakeholders such as the Police, religious fraternal, different committees on the mediation process among others.

SECURITY INITIATIVE FOR LEARNERS

The Minister provided an update on the state of readiness of South African schools on Saturday, 24 July. Primary and secondary schools across the country are expected to resume lessons on Monday, 26 July and the Minister said the education sector is ready to welcome learners.

During the briefing she said various stakeholders are working together to ensure the safety of learners in and around Phoenix.

“The KZN Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu is working to ensure that calm is restored in Phoenix and their starting point is that schools need to reopen and learners must go back,” she said.

Motshekga added that Mshengu will not force matters if it is not safe for children to be moved to Phoenix. “The biggest threat would be children who come from areas outside Phoenix but attend schools there.”

A total of 180 schools were damaged during the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng and other buildings associated with the education department were also damaged. In KwaZulu-Natal, the provincial education department said 137 schools were vandalised while three education centres and eight circuit offices were also damaged.

WHY ARE LEARNERS IN DANGER IN PHOENIX?

The unrest and sporadic protests that gripped KZN and Gauteng saw many communities from vigilante groups. In Phoenix however, Indians are accused of butchering black people in the name of protecting their community against looters. Graphic videos and pictures have been shared online by people whose cars were torched and were beaten by Indian residents of Phoenix.

During his second visit to the area, Minister of Police, Bheki Cele said people were hacked and died of gunshot wounds in Phoenix because of racial tensions.

This week, KZN Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu urged families with missing family members to come forward and identify their loves ones at the Phoenix Medico-Legal Mortuary.

Simelane-Zulu said contrary to reports, the mortuary – which serves the wider eThekwini area and not just Phoenix –  is currently processing the mortal remains of 128 people and not 500 or 300 as reported by many.

KZN Premier, Sihle Zikalala also visited the area this week to urge calm and to visit families who lost their loved ones.

On Friday, 23 July, Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said additional arrests related to the killings that occurred in Phoenix, KwaZulu-Natal during the unrest last week have been made. Ntshavheni was speaking at another security update.

READ: Angie Motshekga: ‘As a sector we are ready’ for schools to reopen