Guest Column

Where did all this tribal tension come from?

2017-05-14 11:43
UNCERTAIN FATE Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga inspects a school that was torched by protesters in Mashau village in the Vuwani area last year. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

UNCERTAIN FATE Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga inspects a school that was torched by protesters in Mashau village in the Vuwani area last year. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

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Livhuwani Matsila

The recent gathering of the residents affected by the demarcation conflict in Vuwani, Limpopo, which was scheduled to be addressed by President Jacob Zuma, deserves serious reflection, given tribal postures and gestures that underscored the behaviour of the agitated community members.

Part of this reflection should refer back as far as the intermittent protests in Malamulele that began in 2013, which were sparked by a demand for the establishment of a new municipality.

The Malamulele protests eventually came to an end when the demarcation board decided to establish a new municipality.

This was a temporary solution, and violence erupted in Vuwani soon afterwards due to grave unhappiness with the inclusion of the Vuwani community in the new municipality.

At the beginning of both protests, there was genuine concern in the communities of Vuwani and Malamulele, and some of us who were involved solely aimed to ensure that there was peace and stability in these communities.

Of great concern was the prolonged disruption of schooling in the areas as this denied our children their right to education.

It is common knowledge that the violation of human rights in both protests became the order of the day due to intimidation, harassment, theft, vandalism, arson and malicious destruction of property, which affected ordinary members of the community.

The results were devastating – more than 50 schools were torched and a sharp drop in the matric pass rate has been recorded.

The most barbaric and disgusting aspect of these protests was the display of tribalism by Xitsonga and Tshivenda protesters, who shamelessly hurled insults at each other while the rest of the country was watching.

Xitsonga and Tshivenda protesters retaliated using vulgar words, that should not be repeated, during the protests in the communities.

For communities that have coexisted peacefully since pre-colonial times, there is no amount of anger that can justify the resurgence of tribalism and ethnic anger.

What is perplexing to some of us is that there are few community leaders who speak out against tribalism.

Public comments by some traditional leaders even seem to encourage tribalism and anarchy in communities.

There has been no sense of prioritising service delivery and the development needs of ordinary members of the community, many of whom live in abject poverty.

The war of boundaries purely seems to be a power struggle among politicians and influential individuals.

It is not too late for community leaders to initiate activities and programmes aimed at promoting unity, cultural diversity and social cohesion in the area.

However, a sustainable solution to ensure unity will only come from within the communities, and local leaders are morally obliged to take the lead.

Failure to provide leadership will only lead to further destruction, as was witnessed when Zuma failed to speak in the area this week.

Chief Matsila is the founder of the Matsila Community Development Trust

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  vuwani  |  limpopo  |  service delivery  |  protests
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