Protests close Punda Maria gate into Kruger Park

2015-02-01 09:00
(File: AFP)

(File: AFP)

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Limpopo - Tourists trying to enter the Kruger National Park through the northernmost gate at Punda Maria were barred from doing so on Saturday by a group of protesters who were eventually dispersed after police fired rubber bullets at them.

According to the Sunday Times, the protest was in response to a rejection by the municipal demarcation board for the town – Malamulele – to become a separate municipality.

The town falls under the Thulamela municipality 30km away. 

Protests in the town have kept children from school since the beginning of the school year. Residents however have warned of a “new June 16”.

They say schools will be disrupted until their demands are met and that the school children are leading this struggle.

They went on to say that life had been better under the apartheid bantustan administration when their town fell under the Giyane municipality as part of the Gazankulu bantustan.

On Friday News24 reported that the Limpopo government said it would study the Municipal Demarcation Board's (MDB) report that Malamulele does not qualify for its own municipality in terms of legislation.

"We have committed ourselves to study the report and act on the findings, and will in due course propose a course of action," the provincial government said in a statement.

"We are committed to working together with the task team and the people of Malamulele on developmental issues."

On Friday, the MDB said Malamulele did not qualify.

The Limpopo government said it would work with the Malamulele task team to restore normality in the area after residents reacted angrily to the news.

"We also call upon workers in the area to return to work and ensure that there are uninterrupted economic activities," said the government.

"The provincial government reiterates its call to parents, learners and teachers in Malamulele to ensure that normal learning and teaching in the area resumes urgently."

Earlier, Limpopo police spokesperson Ronel Otto said four of the main roads leading into and out of Malamulele had been blocked and tyres set alight.

Protesters pelted police with stones.

"We did not take any action like firing rubber bullets. We just spoke to them and they dispersed," she said earlier.

Otto said there was a strong police presence in the area, and this would be maintained throughout the night.

Residents demanding their own municipality have brought Malamulele to a standstill in recent weeks, monitoring roads to ensure no business takes place, and forcing a shutdown of schools as well as shops in the local mall. Last year, protesters set fire to shops and looted, causing millions of rands in damage.

Service delivery

Residents have blamed the MDB for not heeding their call for Malamulele and some surrounding areas, especially the Xitsonga-speaking ones, to have a separate municipality.

They claim they are not receiving services from the Thulamela municipality, which they allege has been channelling services to Tshivenda-speaking areas.

MDB chairperson Jane Thupana said new proposals for a Malamulele municipality could still be pursued.

The study looked at proposed boundaries for a municipality in terms of Sections 24 and 25 of the Municipal Demarcation Act, dealing with demarcation objectives and factors to be considered.

The MDB must consider, among others, whether the proposed demarcated area would enable the municipality to provide services equitably and sustainably, enable effective local governance, and have a tax base that is as inclusive as possible of those using municipal services.

Another factor to consider is the interdependence of communities and economies and the need for integrated areas.

The demand for another municipality has fuelled tensions between Tshivenda and Xitsonga speakers, and triggered divisions among local traditional leaders, as some regard it as a tribal issue.

Thupana said the cycle for consideration of proposals normally opened after local government elections. The minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs could however ask the MDB to entertain proposals at other times.

Read more on:    polokwane  |  protests  |  service delivery

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