Vuwani’s plaster unsticks

2017-09-10 05:59
Schools were shut in Vuwani this week as protests continued over the demarcation of the area into a new municipality. Picture: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media

Schools were shut in Vuwani this week as protests continued over the demarcation of the area into a new municipality. Picture: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media

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Community leaders close schools, affecting 2 000 matrics, in the battle against the new Lim345 local municipality as the demarcation issue rears its head again.

Mulalo Ndou* does not care which municipality collects the rubbish from his village.

All the 19-year-old matric pupil cares about is that the strife in Vuwani, Limpopo, has caused him to miss five matric trial exams so far.

But his community leaders care deeply who serves them, and continue to fight against the new Lim345 local municipality, shutting down the area on Monday, closing schools and barricading roads, which has affected about 2 000 matric pupils.

With anger and frustration on his face, Mulalo’s classmate Mashudu Mulaudzi* (19) asked: “Do those people who decide on a shutdown during exam time have children? I don’t think so, because they would put their future first.”

Vuwani’s pupils had hoped for a smooth academic year after about 30 schools were either torched or damaged during last year’s violent protests over municipal demarcations. At the heart of the issue is that the predominately Venda-speaking residents of Vuwani’s villages want to be moved back to the Makhado Local Municipality, away from the largely Tsonga-speaking Malamulele area and the new Lim345 council.

The Makhado Demarcation Task Team, which has led the residents’ protests, announced another shutdown for this week after failing to convince the Municipal Demarcation Board to reverse its decision and allow them to return to Makhado. The residents’ body had put its hopes in a compromise decision – made by President Jacob Zuma in May – that they would receive their services from the Vhembe District Municipality and not Lim345, which they reject.

But three months later, residents say they have seen none of Zuma’s promises come to pass.

The residents’ task team spokesperson Nsovo Sambo says government should take the blame for the shutdown because it moved too slowly on its promises. He said there was a “lack of political will to resolve Vuwani’s long-standing issue”.

“We cannot shy away from the fact that every academic year is crucial and, as leadership, we continue to deal with the situation, engage and listen to concerns raised by the pupils, teachers and parents,” Sambo said.

“It is very difficult for teaching and learning to take place under the current situation, hence we’re asking government to fast-track this process so that we stabilise the area and allow academic activities to resume. We’re not ones to put our children’s futures at risk without exhausting all avenues. We have been engaging with government about the looming crisis, pleading with them to resolve it, but they were not willing. Where there is no will; there is no way.”

Not welcomed by everyone

Meanwhile, the provincial government is racing against time to save the academic year – and Zuma’s reputation among residents.

Zuma’s compromise decision was not welcomed by everyone. The decision was also not binding for those involved, and Lim345 shielded itself with legislation so it could refuse to play its part.

Although new mayor Joyce Vila did not respond to requests for comment this week, Limpopo government spokesperson Phuti Seloba said: “Lim345 took a [council] resolution not to support the idea of Vhembe servicing other parts in their area. They say that, in a particular ward, you find a portion of residents are pro-Makhado and others pro-Malamulele ... so you can’t divide a ward. Hence we decided to come with a support package.”

The provincial government has committed itself to appointing a project manager to oversee service delivery in Vuwani exclusively, to which all provincial government departments are expected to contribute. But the residents still won’t have it.

Seloba said Vuwani would still be found on Lim345’s service delivery plans, and it would still collect revenue from the area.

But Sambo said the residents were under a different impression.

“Lim345 being involved is not what we are expecting. The community has no relationship with Lim345; they don’t recognise it and they don’t want them to be part of this arrangement,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that revenue collected will be received by Lim345 when we’ve raised it with government that this is against our wishes.”

Seloba, however, said the Limpopo government had to focus on delivering services.

“The issue of being wanted or not is not our competence as provincial government. We’ve not created any abnormal situation anywhere and we’ve been saying this shutdown has no prospects of delivering anything in terms of their initial demand,” he said.

Seloba said the province decided to reopen service points, including a municipal office in Vuwani, and provide support to Lim345 until it could stand alone. It was now up to community leaders to lift the shutdown.

“As far as we’re concerned, our schools are open. We call on parents to protect their children’s future,” he said.

But whether they will do so remains to be seen.

Sambo said: “To break this deadlock, we’ve requested a meeting with government for them to present to us how they will be implementing the president’s decision. The shutdown remains on until a resolution is reached between ourselves and government.”

Meanwhile, Matsila village’s Chief Livhuwani Matsila has made a wedding venue at a community trust-owned lodge available for his matric residents to meet and study.

Mulalo now worries that his dreams of studying aeronautical engineering will vanish.

“Grade 12 determines one’s future, and others may throw in the towel if they don’t make it this year,” he said. “Can’t our leaders find other ways of doing things without a shutdown, which has so far derailed many pupils’ future plans?”

* Not their real names

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  vuwani

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