No school for 75 000 pupils as Malamulele shutdown continues

More than 75 000 learners in the troubled Malamulele area will enter their fifth week without schooling after the community resolved to continue its shutdown.

They are protesting for the establishment of their own municipality.

The Limpopo education department has raised concerns that more than 300 matriculants may not be able to sit down for their supplementary examinations, due to begin on February 16, if the shutdown persists.

Department spokesperson Paena Galane said they were also worried that over 200 teachers staying outside Malamuele were unable to enter the area and go to work.

Meanwhile, another 200 or more teachers who were staying in Malamulele were unable to leave the area to go to work.

Galane said 3000 matriculants were among pupils affected across a total of 161 schools in the volatile area.

A task team has been appointed to look at the general impact of the strike and to assess the damage of four schools which were burnt, Galane said.

“We may have to replace most of the textbooks and workbooks damaged when schools were torched. There are also financial implications for the department and the damage adds to the burden in a province where we have a huge infrastructure backlog,” he said.

If the community agrees, the department would look at the possibility of having pupils writing their supplementary exams at a place determined by the department, Galane added.

Malamulele learners have not been to school since the new school year started last month after the community decided on a total shutdown of services as part of the protest and demand for a municipality.

Residents said they were not getting service delivery from the Thohoyandou-based Thulamela municipality.

Some believe they are motivated by tribalism because Thulamela is based in the Venda-speaking area, but the Tsonga-speaking Malamulele community believes service delivery will improve if they can have their own municipality covering more than 100 villages in the area.

National government had unleashed its bigwigs who descended on Malamulele this past week, but their endless efforts seem to have drawn blanks as the community meeting held today resolved to continue the shutdown.

Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan spent days in marathon meetings with community stakeholders in a bid to restore calm.

Gordhan has asked the Municipal Demarcation Board to disestablish some municipalities and merge others in a bid to decrease the number of financially unfeasible municipalities.

It is understood that the minister has asked for the disestablishment of Mutale municipality and have some wards incorporated into Thulamela and Musina municipalities.

Gordhan told journalists in Malamulele on Thursday that a new chapter has been opened and that he has made a proposal to the stakeholders of Malamulele.

The Malamulele demarcation task team was upbeat towards the end of the week following their meetings with the ministers.

Their spokesperson, Dr Isaiah Ndhambi, made an undertaking to Gordhan and Nhleko to try and convince the community to stop the shutdown.

But things did not go their way at a meeting earlier today.

Malamulele demarcation task team secretary Dr Jan Nkuna said the community was adamant that the shutdown should continue even after they tabled their intentions on how they were going to tackle their struggle for a municipality.

“There was no way they could have been convinced otherwise. The community is angry and frustrated but we’re having another meeting next Sunday to report back to them and to find out if their anger has subsided and maybe they have changed their minds,” Nkuna said.

Meanwhile, strike leader Bejani Hlungwani described today’s meeting as “hectic and chaotic”.

“The community is angry and all of us without any hesitation decided that the shutdown should continue,” he said.

The shutdown was expected to kick in from 6am tomorrow until 3pm on Friday. Shops will be closed and there will be no schooling and public transport during that period. Only clinics and a hospital will be allowed to operate.

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