Polokwane – Government remains concerned about the recent violent protests in Vuwani and surrounding areas, says Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen.
“This type of violence sets our development back and denies our citizens and learners an opportunity to improve their lives. As such, let us stand together to build the South Africa we envisaged,” he said.
Minister van Rooyen, who is the head of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) set up to oversee the return to normality in Vuwani and surrounding areas, was speaking to journalists in Polokwane on Tuesday.
Since the violent protests erupted in Vuwani and the surrounding villages following a court ruling that paved the way for the area to be incorporated into the new proposed municipality, a total of 27 schools (11 high schools and 16 primary schools) have been damaged and burned.
The shutdown, which is still continuing in villages such as Tshimbupfe, Mashau, Masia and Vyeboom, disrupted learning and teaching, where 52 827 learners are affected, with 2 600 being matriculants.
Reacting to the burning of Mawela Primary School last night in Sereni village, Minister Van Rooyen said: “This cowardly act sets us backward as a country. This action by a few threatens to derail the gains we have made since we started engaging with all stakeholders in the area.”
The Minister said South Africans should be committed to resolving their problems peacefully and bringing to fulfilment the South Africa envisaged in the Constitution.
Following the Limpopo High Court decision on demarcation, a wave of violent protests erupted in Mashau, Masakona, Doli, Masia, Bungeni and Vyeboom. Roads were blockaded with tree trunks, rocks and concrete pipes, while government property has been damaged and torched. Police vehicles patrolling the area have also been ambushed.
Efforts to quell unrest
The IMC initiated engagements with stakeholders on May 5. It began by seeking consensus from all the stakeholders and urging all communities in Vuwani and surrounding areas to ensure that there is unity, and tribalism and ethnicity are confronted.
Minister Van Rooyen said the destruction of property and interruption of services affects the health sector negatively.
“The clinic committees and traditional leaders made it clear that this action is not acceptable. At this stage, the clinics that were closed (De Hoop and Mashau) are now operational and this is a step in the right direction, ensuring that normality returns to Vuwani and surrounding areas,” he said.
Mediation panel on Vuwani
Former Tshwane Mayor Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa has been named a convener of the mediation panel that will facilitate engagements between traditional leaders and the IMC.
Other members of the mediation panel are Wits University Professor of Education, Mary Metcalfe; former municipal manager of City of eThekwini, Mike Sutcliffe and Joe Mohlakoana, the former municipal manager of the West Rand District Municipality.
“We believe this eminent group will be able to bring their experience to bear on the events of the past weeks and resolve outstanding issues,” said Minister Van Rooyen.
Mkhatshwa said as part of bringing peace and stability, they will be inclusive in their engagements. “We will engage the academia, traditional and all relevant stakeholders.”