State’s U-turn on Vuwani

2016-07-10 22:24
(News24 Correspondent)

Johannesburg - Government is set to backtrack on its decision to move communities in Vuwani from Makhado into a new municipality that will incorporate Malamulele, City Press has established.

Six senior officials in the Limpopo provincial government, the ANC and traditional leadership in the violence-torn area told City Press that “the deal that is on the table is that people who do not want to be a part of the merger, are not going to be forced”.

The relevant stakeholders have said that discussions on an out-of-court settlement would be finalised this weekend.

But Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen said it was “irresponsible that people would communicate details on such a sensitive matter because consultation was still under way”. He said the out-of-court settlement was among the various options that were being discussed.

In May this year, communities from a cluster of villages surrounding Vuwani in Limpopo went on the rampage following a failed legal attempt to reverse the new demarcation boundaries approved by the Municipal Demarcation Board.

Twenty-four schools were torched and education came to a halt in the area. The is still no schooling for those in Grade 11 and below. But matriculants have been taken to different camps and are expected to start mid-year examinations on Monday. Vuwani residents also threatened to boycott municipal elections.

A meeting on Wednesday afternoon with Limpopo premier and ANC provincial chairperson Stan Mathabatha and king of the Vhavenda, Khosikhulu Toni Mphephu Ramabulana delivered a victory for the Vuwani residents after the out-of-court settlement was agreed to, according to senior officials involved.

The legal teams of both the community and government has been expected to finalise an agreement on Sunday that will be taken to the Constitutional Court to be declared an order. All the parties have filed papers with the court and were waiting for a date, they will now have to approach the chief justice to inform him of their decision to settle the matter.

It was expected that the decision to reverse the merger, supported by all parties involved in discussions, would restore calm in the area and encourage residents to vote on August 3, and that it will be supported by both the Independent Electoral Commission and the demarcation board.

“There is an agreement to be legally finalised by Sunday,” said an official close to the king.

He said: “The merger will not go ahead. It is an out-of-court settlement that will be endorsed by the Constitutional Court.

“Both legal teams will have to get a date from the chief justice and then it becomes and order of the court. Everyone wants the matter to be resolved amicably.”

Insiders said Mathabatha’s meeting with King Ramabulana was part of the government’s mandate following another meeting he had last Sunday with the interministerial task team on Vuwani. The task team included Van Rooyen, State Security Minister David Mahlobo and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

Limpopo government spokesperson Phuti Seloba said Mathabatha went to see Ramabulana “as part of the ongoing dialogue to break the impasse and find an amicable solution”.

He said the government was “positive” that with the type of discussion that had started, the issue of people boycotting elections would be over.

Limpopo ANC spokesperson Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the matter was in the hands of the provincial government, which was also involved in the Constitutional Court case.

Insiders said the ANC was worried about losing voter support in what has been one of its traditional strongholds.

“The problem is that if these people go to court and win, they would have won against the ruling party. The ANC would lose its authority over the chiefs,” said an official close to the discussions.

Another official said Ramabulana initiated the intervention sometime in May, when he met President Jacob Zuma.

“He then summoned the traditional leaders affected and government’s interministerial task team to come together so that an agreement could be sought,” he said.

The municipal demarcation board said it could not comment on Vuwani because “it is out of our hands and government is dealing with it”, said spokesperson Bulelwa Mbali-Khoele.

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