Vuwani: Councillor with a lot to lose

Gideon Tshavhuyo
Gideon Tshavhuyo

Luxury perks would vanish if municipality borders shift, writes Poloko Tau

On his Instagram account, ANC councillor Gideon Tshavhuyo poses beside a German luxury vehicle and also posted pictures of his opulent double-storey house, among other pictures showing the lavish lifestyle he lives.

He has been described as a “snazzy dresser” and an ambitious politician.

Tshavhuyo is a product of the ANC Youth League and became a councillor at the age of 29 in 2006. He was about to complete his second term at the age of 39 this year. He once headed the finance portfolio of Makhado municipality and often acted as mayor and represented his boss at functions.

But Tshavhuyo stands to lose some of these perks if his village in Vuwani is relocated into the new municipality of Malamulele.

He therefore led his community in a fierce battle to remain part of the Louis Trichardt-based Makhado municipality.

Tshavhuyo is among the 21 people facing charges of arson, damage to property and public violence following violent protests that left 26 schools damaged by fires in Vuwani.

The Ward 9 councillor has become the talk of the town not only in Mashau village in Vuwani, Limpopo, where he lives, but also nationally following his arrest.

Although he recently lost in the elections to become an ANC branch leader, not everyone believes Tshavhuyo committed the crimes he is accused of.

“I don’t believe as a councillor he would join young boys in petrol-bombing schools, especially in his own area. Perhaps it is true that he was bankrolling the real perpetrators, but I don’t see him being physically placed at any crime scene,” one villager said.

Why would he bankroll such acts? A local ANC member agreed he may not have been directly involved but said he “stood to lose a lot if Vuwani areas are incorporated into the new municipality to be based in Malamulele”. This could explain why he possibly endorsed the violent acts – if they are ever proven and he is found guilty.

“He is an ambitious man and at his age he still has a long way to go in terms of political prospects. [Tshavhuyo] is one of the charismatic councillors and had his eye on becoming mayor of Makhado one day. Being part of the new municipality would definitely spoil all his chances,” said another resident.

“I can assure you, he is not the only one who is not happy about the redrafting of borders – all councillors affected are worried, although they are pretending to be calm and toeing the line, as required by the ANC,” added another resident.

Analysts are bringing tribalism into the mix. Vuwani areas are mainly Tshivenda speaking and there is a belief that the new municipality is going to be made up of mostly wards coming from Malamulele, a Xitsonga-dominated area. If this happened, the Vendas would be in the minority.

“Those from the minority group will have less influence and power, and that’s not what any politician looks forward to. There is definitely a lot at stake for these councillors,” one villager said.

“In Makhado, the mayor (David Mutavhatsindi) and the likes of Tshavhuyo, who live in Vuwani, had influence. In the new municipality, chances of having a mayor from Vuwani are very slim. This means a loss of power and influence for them.”

The ANC has vowed not to protect any of its members who were implicated in violent acts and has since suspended Tshavhuyo, pending an internal investigation and the court case. It is unlikely that he will make it into the candidate councillor list for the coming local government elections.

Meanwhile, Limpopo education has confirmed that among those arrested was a teacher, Edzisani Muthathe. She appeared in court alongside Tshavhuyo on Wednesday. Tshavhuyo and others will apply for bail on Tuesday.

Vuwani teachers urged to allay fears and return to work

As the Limpopo provincial government rushed to get pupils back in class in troubled Vuwani, most teachers stayed home, citing fear and intimidation as reasons for their absence from some schools this week.

“Teachers should remember that they are not on strike and should report those intimidating them to the police,” Limpopo provincial government spokesperson Phuti Seloba said in response.

“We expect to see them back on duty on Monday.”

It was not only government that criticised the poor teacher turnout and the reasons given.

Senior traditional leader Chief Livhuwani Matsila complained when he visited schools around his village and found no teacher in sight.

“Not even a single teacher came through to schools in this area and while they expressed fear, they are not saying exactly who is intimidating them. We need normal schooling and teachers back at work,” he said.

Pupils joined the community in cleaning up the ashes in the classrooms that were not totally torched. Some told City Press they were worried that there could be intimidation, but nothing has happened.

Teachers have been urged to report those intimidating them to the police. Their union, Sadtu, said it was not going to be easy for their members to report for duty “until their safety is assured”.

Secretary of the union in the Vhembe region Robert Maphaha said that they were not expecting teachers to report for duty in inaccessible villages, amid barricades and safety concerns. – Poloko Tau

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