Vuwani peace deal scuppered over budget

2017-09-17 06:33
Stan Mathabatha

Stan Mathabatha

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A settlement deal brokered by President Jacob Zuma and Venda monarch King Toni Mphephu Ramabulana as part of a bid to bring stability to the troubled Vuwani area in Limpopo has hit a snag.

Officials in the new municipal entity, Lim345, based in Malamulele, have opposed the settlement. They are refusing to allow the Vhembe District Municipality to provide services to Vuwani villagers, as envisaged by Zuma and the king.

Several sources told City Press that the new municipality had refused to surrender part of its budget to the Vhembe district to enable officials to render services to Vuwani villages, on the grounds that they wouldn’t be in control of who received tenders.

The implication was that officials in Lim345 feared they would lose power and control of the budget.

This has put a stop to what Zuma had believed would be a temporary solution to the long-standing demarcation problem in Vuwani.

The situation remains a sensitive ethical dilemma for the ANC.

Sources, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said everyone agreed that Zuma’s proposed agreement had secured some stability in Vuwani after the community agreed to receive services from Vhembe District Municipality rather than Lim345.

But, in the few months since the deal was brokered, the presidential race between Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has gained momentum.

This has been a contributing factor to the deal being scuppered as the region appears to back Ramaphosa, if regalia and car stickers seen there are anything to go by.

“At the centre of the saga is the battle for control of the municipal coffers, Each group wants to be closer to the kitty,” said a source.

He added that the formation of Lim345 was meant to appease Malamulele residents.

But it created another problem after areas around Vuwani were taken from Makhado Local Municipality and integrated into the new entity – without input from residents.

Vuwani residents even rejected a tarred road project worth more than R50m because it would be delivered under the auspices of Lim345.

Sources told City Press that tribalism was adding fuel to the fire as residents in Vuwani, a mostly Tshivenda-speaking area, remained opposed to being appropriated under the largely Xitsonga-speaking areas of Malamulele.

Sources said the new Malamulele municipality was formed as a result of protest action by Malamulele communities, who no longer wanted to be part of Thulamela Local Municipality as it was dominated by Tshivenda-speaking communities.

But another source denied this: “The Vhembe region of the ANC moved as a unit over the years and not along tribal lines – even when bargaining for powerful positions in the ANC’s provincial leadership.”

Another source said: “Flames that were extinguished in Malamulele reached Vuwani, where more than 30 schools were either torched or damaged in violent protests against municipal demarcations.”

Pro-Makhado spokesperson Nsovo Sambo said: “Malamulele people made it clear ... that they wanted their own municipality and did not want to be under the Venda-dominated Thulamela.

"Why place Vuwani residents under a new municipality with people who didn’t want to be with them?”

But Malamulele task team spokesperson Ike Nukeri also accused Vuwani communities of tribalism.

“They clearly do not want to be serviced by a municipality dominated by Tsonga people. They want to revive the homeland situation.”

Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha confirmed that the province was facing a stalemate.

“We are caught in the middle and can only hope that all stakeholders reach common ground. The saddest part is that children’s education is affected.”

When asked for comment, Lim345 mayor Joyce Bila said a municipal spokesperson would call City Press, but this did not happen.

The same happened when ANC provincial secretary in Limpopo Nocks Seabi was asked to comment.

Bongani Ngqulunga, Zuma’s spokesperson, did not respond to requests for comment either.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  vuwani

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