After the Modern Christian School in Tembisa was forced to relocate after it was vandalised by EFF members on Tuesday, the party has distanced itself from the vandalism and blamed one of its party members for abusing the EFF’s name.
According to the school’s director, Maggie Banda, the school had been receiving threats from the EFF and community members for some time. The warnings urged the school to move, and allegedly threatened to harm children and staff members should they refuse to do so.
Banda said the school tried to get EFF officials, property owners and the police to get involved, but no response was received. The EFF disputed this on Friday morning, however.
The property is rented from the Baptist Convention Centre of South Africa.
EFF members were alleged to have broken down classroom doors and thrown out all classroom furniture.
This forced the school to relocate to a different section of Tembisa, “so that we may continue to offer our children the best education in a safe and healthy environment,” Banda explained.
After the school was vandalised, Banda said EFF members protested outside the premises, and allegedly said the premises had been handed over to them by the Baptist Convention.
After the relocation, Banda was concerned the incident would affect the school’s registration.
“We would like to apologise that due process in moving was not followed, but as per the situation, we found ourselves in dire and in an emergency situation,” Banda lamented.
EFF Gauteng chairperson Mandisa Mashego said on Friday that the party condemned the incident, calling the use of its name by an EFF fighter in Ward 19 “disreputable”, but added that it was a private matter that they needed to stay out of.
“The EFF has not summoned any eviction, nor has it ever entered any rental agreement with any private or public school anywhere in the country,” she said.
“We must first set the record straight that the owners of the yard are EFF members and had entered an agreement with the school (which has about 365 scholars) for 10 years, which ended in 2016.
“The school is situated in a church yard (Baptist Church) where the yard is owned by Meme Maphetho, an EFF member in ward 91. Meme Maphetho did not want to extend the lease agreement when it expired in 2016. However, it was renewed on a month-to-month basis for a period of 2 years, until 2018.”
She said this happened again from last year and into the start of this year.
Mashego added that the EFF’s regional leadership tried to facilitate an agreement between the two parties when the school faced eviction and community pressure that it should be evicted.
“However, the regional leadership was later informed that an agreement cannot be met as there is a harassment court order granted against fighter Meme Maphetho, which states, among others things, that she cannot be in direct or indirect contractual agreement with the school or its management.”
Mashego claimed they had engaged with the school owners on the matter and the owners agreed to seek other premises.
“In the presence of the police and the community, [[they] agreed to relocate”.
“The EFF has nothing to do with the operations or the shutdown of the private school. It is simply a case of differences between the owner of the property who happens to be an EFF member and the owners of the private school, which ultimately led to them leaving the premises.”
She claimed the EFF member had thus misused the party’s name in her efforts to seek rent and/or evict the school, “an act we distance ourselves from as the EFF”.
“In essence, this is a matter of an agreement between private citizens that has gone bad.”
Banda, however, contacted The Citizen to dispute the EFF statement.
“Mapheto is not the owner of the property. The property is owned by Baptist Convention Centre. These are the people to whom we have been paying rent and have an agreement with. The reason why there is a protection order in place is because she threatened our children, staff and management in 2017.
“She has now threatened the new premises we have found. We have every single documentation. We don’t understand how a dispute between management should affect children and their education. This woman has her own personal agenda and is causing a lot of harm.
“Modern Christian School rented the property from Baptist Convention Centre of South Africa; we have moved from the property. Why is she still threatening us and why is she following us and threatening to further harm our children? Surely this is all illegal.
(Compiled by Nica Schreuder and Charles Cilliers)