Banned from village for being a ‘sellout’

2017-09-10 05:59
Community leader Thomas Munyai has been forced to flee his home in Vuwani. Picture: Lucas Ledwaba

Community leader Thomas Munyai has been forced to flee his home in Vuwani. Picture: Lucas Ledwaba

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A community leader in Masakona village outside Vuwani, Limpopo, is living in exile after local residents torched his house and business, allegedly for “selling out” in the demarcation issue that saw the village moved from one municipality to a new one, Lim345.

Thomas Munyai (58) said: “I have a letter from the traditional council telling me that I am not part of the community and that I have even lost my burial rites. I did not only lose my house, but I was disowned by my own people because of lies.”

Munyai is the latest victim of ongoing tensions that have pitted those who supported the incorporation of the village into Lim345, which includes parts of Vuwani and Malamulele. The village previously formed part of the Makhado Local Municipality.

“They started with my tuck shop, which was burnt down in February. As the lies escalated, my house was burnt down in April,” said Munyai.

His house was torched just moments after police took him and his family to the local police station. He had received a tip-off that people were planning to attack him.

Munyai takes a deep breath and remains silent for a while. He stares at the ground before continuing to recount the ordeal that left his family with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

“It was an act of hooliganism by those who lied to the community,” Munyai said.

“They told them that I signed some documents agreeing that our village will be part of Lim345. Lies were spread and the community I have worked in with dedication during all these years was turned against me.

“Here I was in the middle of the night, under attack by my own people. I was boiling with anger and wanted to fight them, but they would not let me. I recognised some faces of those who were in a large group waiting to pounce on my house as police escorted us to the police station.”

Before he went inside the police station, Munyai turned to take a last look at his home.

“I saw the large flames gutting my house. I stood there with tears dripping down my face.

“I wanted to run there and fight or chase them away, but police would not let me do it. I could only stand there and cry,” he said.

“My house was burnt the same night the first school was torched in my village.

“I saw this coming and alerted traditional leaders, but no one was interested in addressing the looming crisis until it was too late.”

About 30 schools were either burnt or damaged during the violent protests against the demarcation across Vuwani last year.

Munyai believes he was targeted after he sought to clarify, during an ANC branch executive meeting, the party’s guidelines for nominating councillors ahead of last year’s local government elections.

“We agreed to go ahead with nominations while waiting for the demarcation issue to be resolved by the courts and authorities,” he said.

He believes an individual accused him of thwarting his attempts to become a councillor.

“One person with high ambitions to become a councillor – who was leading the community in the anti-Lim345 campaign at the same time – was automatically disqualified for nomination because of a criminal record.

“He believed that I did it deliberately to get him out of the race and decided to lead a malicious campaign against me,” Munyai said.

Local traditional leader Thovhele Masakona Rasikhuthuma distanced himself from the decision to banish Munyai from the village he had lived in all his life.

“It was made at a mass meeting, which I had no influence over. As a leader, I do not chase people away – and that was not a traditional council decision,” he said.

Munyai is renting a place for his family in nearby Elim.

Read more on:    vuwani

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