Hawks, Crime Intelligence to pursue Vuwani school arsonists

2016-05-06 06:09
School that was set alight during protests in Vuwani, Limpopo. (News24 Correspondent)

School that was set alight during protests in Vuwani, Limpopo. (News24 Correspondent)

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Polokwane - Police numbers are expected to swell in Vuwani following days of protests which led to 19 schools being razed to the ground this week, with specialised units deployed to the area. 

State Security Minister David Mahlobo told journalists on Thursday evening the additional officers would be deployed to the area which had been stricken by civil unrest.  

Mahlobo, who is part of a ministerial team assigned by President Jacob Zuma to bring calm to the area, said an additional investigation team from the Hawks would be arriving on Friday.

"We have made a decision to bring those specialised units, the Hawks to strengthen the work on the ground. We are expecting the community to work with police.

"It's not a single school that has been burnt, 19 schools have been burnt. You have to bring them [the Hawks] so that you are able to surround this area and stabilise it as quickly as possible," he said.

Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu added that additional officers from the Crime Intelligence Unit were also scheduled to arrive.

Seven arrested

She said police had arrested 7 suspects and more arrests were imminent.

"The Hawks are specialised in organised crime. Never in the history of the country have we seen 19 schools burnt to ash in a short time unless this is organised. That is why we took this decision," she told the media.

Sotyu said more than 60 Public Order Police were patrolling the area.

When asked why reinforcement took long, Mahlobo said they had increased police visibility in the past day.

He said difficult terrain in the region made it difficult for police to navigate around the area.

Echoing Mahlobo’s sentiment, Sotyu added, "We can't arrest for the sake of arresting. I agree, we took time. We are still going to deploy police to schools that have not been burnt. The Hawks will work hand in hand with Crime Intelligence until such a time we can bring stability in the area."

Damage in the millions

Mahlobo said they would assess the damage to schools in the coming days adding that he estimated that it would go up to millions. He said they would also make alternative plans for school children.

"We know that children have lost their time. We are doing an assessment of the damages in the next few days so that we can account accurately. We will agree with the community on how to stabilise the situation so that schooling should be provided,” he said.  

Mahlabo added that several engagements with traditional and community leaders had been ongoing in the background.

A planned meeting with Venda king Tony Ramabulane was planned for Friday.

Co-operative Governance MEC in Limpopo, Makoma Makhurupetje, dismissed claims that the violence was a result of tribalism.

She said those fuelling this rumour were opportunistic.

"We have been a peaceful province since 1994 and the issue of tribalism cannot arise now. If you can go to these areas you will find Venda speaking and Shangaan speaking people in the same area. We are dismissing claims that this matter has got any relationship with tribalism. Whoever said that is opportunistic," she said. 

Read more on:    polokwane  |  protests

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