‘We want a Collins Chabane municipality for Malamulele’

2015-03-22 18:00

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Collins Chabane’s family yesterday used his funeral in Xikundu, Limpopo, to insist that President Jacob Zuma establish a separate municipality for the people of Malamulele in Limpopo.

While paying tribute to his nephew, Hosi Shilungwa Mhinga, who is Chabane’s uncle and chief of the Mhinga clan, told President Zuma that Chabane shared his community’s view that the area be granted its request for a municipality.

The president was seated just behind him at the funeral.

Malamulele has recently been a hotbed of violent service-delivery protests, which saw schools and government buildings set alight as locals demanded their own municipality – a demand they believe will bring them better services.

The protests also degenerated into a tribal conflict between Xitsonga speakers and their Tshivenda-speaking neighbours, who are in the majority.

Mhinga also asked for the new municipality to be named after Chabane.

The Chabanes’ request will place President Zuma under pressure to appease tensions in the area ahead of next year’s local government elections. The request comes just weeks after the demarcation board dismissed the community’s request for their own municipality.

Mhinga said: “It was his wish that Malamulele be granted a municipality. As a family, we would also request that the municipality be called Collins Chabane Municipality.”

Thousands of locals, who filled two marquees to pay their last respects to the late public service and administration minister, applauded the request.

“I appeal to you, Mr President, that you provide us with a municipality to have infrastructure so that we can develop this area. This is what Collins would have loved us to do,” said Mhinga.

Mhinga said his nephew also wanted border posts established in the area between South Africa and neighbours Mozambique and Zimbabwe to improve trade between the three countries.

At the end of his impassioned eulogy, President Zuma acknowledged Mhinga’s request.

President Zuma had earlier recounted how he received the news of Chabane’s tragic death last Sunday morning and erroneously telephoned Chabane’s wife, Mavis, to offer his condolences – only to find out that she had not yet been informed about the crash.

President Zuma called for tougher road rules and infringement penalties for those who break them, and chastised the driver of the truck that Chabane’s vehicle collided with. He questioned the driving abilities of truck driver Amukelani Rikhotso, who is now facing three counts of murder.

“What the driver did not do in my view was to park the truck and rest. It’s clear he was sleeping. He woke up and saw [Chabane’s] car and he did not know what he was doing and swerved. But the rules say when you feel tired?... stop and rest.

“I’m saying this because it must be a lesson to all of you. Here’s a man and he was in a situation and he might have been trying to turn?...?It is clear he did not obey the rules?...?he has robbed us of three lives,” the president said.

President Zuma received a dressing down by citizens on social networks, who questioned the president’s judgement when he aired strong views about a case that has not yet been to court.

President Zuma told mourners that he had spoken to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters about harsher punishment for errant drivers.

“Maybe we should strengthen the [road] rules and [increase] the punishment because carelessness on our roads cannot continue. We all have a collective responsibility,” he said.

He lauded Chabane, who was recruited into the ANC’s underground network, as a cadre par excellence. President Zuma said few ANC cadres could accomplish what Chabane had in his private life, in government and in politics.

“I saw a man who, when he came out of Robben Island, contributed to the development of the country’s Constitution. He was there when the Constitution was crafted,” said the president.

He added that Chabane had foresight on many intricate issues – a quality important to both government and the ANC.

President Zuma said Chabane, who rose to prominence as an Umkhonto weSizwe soldier to become a commissar, was a “brave soldier and a thinking politician” – the reasons the ANC recruited him for combat training in exile.

Earlier in the day at the funeral service held at Chabane’s Evangelical Presbyterian Church in SA, which was attended by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, ministers, family members and fellow worshippers, the late minister received a moving farewell.

The short service saw Umkhonto weSizwe veterans replacing an ANC flag with Chabane’s church guild jacket. Chabane was a member of the church’s men’s guild since 2006, after a lifetime of service to the church.

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