he man whose neighbours know him as Rich – or Uncle Rich – is a jolly grandfather whose thunderous laugh lets everyone know he’s nearby.
Richard Draai (58) was also the leader of this week’s violent protests in northern Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, which saw 56 schools close their doors. In the climax to a three-year fight against a crippling teacher shortage, residents burnt tyres, battled police and stoned cars.
The first rubber bullets were fired at 5.10am on Monday, the day “all hell broke loose”.
“Monday was the worst day of my life,” says Draai.
He is the head of the Northern Areas Education Forum, and the school governing body chairperson at Bethvale Primary School in Bethelsdorp, which his 10year-old granddaughter attends.
In an interview in front of the school, the retired General Motors production manager and neighbourhood sports coach says it was supposed to have been a peaceful march on the education department’s offices.
“I feel terrible that the situation became so violent, resulting in all the damages and disruptions. I wish I had black paint to change the end result,” he says.