Vuwani: ANC councillor arrested for arson, lockdown continues

People watch as the Mariadza Inclusive School burns in Limpopo. Schools in the area were burnt down last week by disgruntled residents protesting against municipal demarcation  PHOTO: Sandile Ndlovu / Gallo Images
People watch as the Mariadza Inclusive School burns in Limpopo. Schools in the area were burnt down last week by disgruntled residents protesting against municipal demarcation PHOTO: Sandile Ndlovu / Gallo Images

An ANC councillor is among those arrested for torching schools and violent protests in the troubled Vuwani in Limpopo.

The town remained on a knife-edge as the lockdown continued despite government plans to have schooling resume today.

The councillor and three others were arrested over the weekend and charged with arson, damage to property and public violence in connection with violent protests that left 24 schools damaged across Vuwani.

About 60 000 learners have not been able to attend school in the past two weeks amid tension in the area. Residents took to the streets in protest after their court bid to have the area remaining under the Makhado municipality failed. They don’t want to be incorporated into a new municipality together with Malamulele.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Ronel Otto said Makhado municipality councillor Takalani Gideon Tshavhuyo was arrested in a raid over the weekend. He appeared in the Malamulele Magistrate’s Court today where the matter was postponed to Wednesday for a formal bail application.

This comes just a few days after ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte visited Vuwani, condemned violence and warned that her party was not going to “protect” any member found to be involved in acts of public violence and torching of schools. Tshavhuyo was arrested together with three other people.

Meanwhile, sporadic incidents of violence in Vyeboom village – where protesters clashed with police earlier today – and low turnout of learners at schools this morning casted doubt on whether stability would be restored in the troubled Vuwani.

Government had planned for schools to reopen today, following two weeks of total lockdown.

There were signs of readiness with reports yesterday and this morning that some children and parents took to cleaning classrooms at some of the 24 schools that were torched and damaged since the protests began.

With only very few learners arriving at schools, government officials said it was believed that teachers and parents were being threatened.

Provincial government spokesperson Phuthi Seloba said they did not expect 100% attendance on the first day but were expecting for things to improve gradually.

He said there was some commitment shown that children wanted to be in school and government was encouraged by that.

“You could not see children wearing uniform in Vuwani in the past two weeks but this changed today, with some profound signs of commitment to schooling shown even by parents who went and helped clean the damaged classrooms. We’re hoping that more will come to school in the coming days and teachers must report those who intimidate them to the police and remember that they are not on strike,” Seloba said.

While government appeared confident, Vyeboom village civic group spokesperson Nsovo Sambo said leaders from different villages met yesterday and resolved that the status quo remains.

“Only children from villages where civic structure leaders failed to report back to the communities on the resolution went to school,” he said.

Sambo said it was decided at the same meeting that the task team that took the Vuwani matter to court – and dissolved soon after the failed legal bid two weeks ago – will be reinstated.

“We have realised that our genuine struggle has been hijacked by opportunists and criminals who burn schools in the absence of a formal leadership structure. The task team should be able to call general meetings and get mandate from communities but for now our position remains; the lockdown continues until the Municipal Demarcation Board reverses its decision,” he said.”

“We have not achieved our objective so we have got nothing to suspend. This struggle belongs to the communities and no one decides for us on when we should suspend what.

“We have also resolved that we won’t be meeting any ministers and government officials. We’re leaving it to our traditional leaders because we have realised that government people want to infiltrate and divide us.”

It has been reported that traditional leaders have decided to appeal the court outcome. Limpopo government also confirmed that Venda King Toni Mphephu Ramabulana has met President Jacob Zuma to discuss Vuwani but was told to go and reinstate stability in the area first.

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