The leaders of the protests in Malamulele, Limpopo, have threatened to escalate their activities should authorities not meet their demand for their own municipality.
“Today we are waiting for a response from the Municipal Dermarcation Board and the minister [of cooperative governance], said one of the leaders, Isaac Nukeri.
“If that does not happen, we will write letters to them again tomorrow about a march and then escalate the protest to ensure nothing goes into or out of Malamulele.”
The area came to a standstill – children were prevented from attending school and businesses were closed – as residents took to the streets to demand their own municipality.
Protesters forced shops in the local mall to close two days before inland schools were due to open for the new academic year.
They blamed the Municipal Demarcation Board for not heeding their call for Malamulele and some surrounding areas, especially those that are Xitsonga-speaking, to have its own municipality.
Residents claimed they were not receiving services from the Thulamela municipality, which they alleged had been channelling services to Tshivenda-speaking sections. The municipality has repeatedly denied this.
The demand for another municipality has fuelled tensions between Tshivenda and Xitsonga speakers and triggered division among local traditional leaders as some regard it as a tribal issue.
Last year protesters took to the streets, burning shops and looting, causing millions of rands’ worth of damage.
“Malamulele is tense, there are people monitoring the area to make sure there’s no business taking place. There’s no public transport operating,” said Nukeri.
President Jacob Zuma said he would look into the matter when he visited the area last year ahead of the May general elections. No response had been received from Zuma’s office, said Nukeri.
Police spokesperson Colonel Ronel Otto said the area was quiet today and that police continued to monitor and maintain law and order.