VUWANI – Dozens of pupils have been left stranded in Limpopo’s Vhembe district after the mayhem and burning of schools continued until late Wednesday, but the situation was now calm police said on Thursday morning as they removed barricades from roads in the area.
For three days running residents opposed to their area being incorporated into a new municipality have set alight schools, barricaded roads, stoned passing cars and battled riot police. Several vehicles, a post office and a tribal office were also set alight.
The violent protests erupted on Sunday after residents were informed that they had lost their high court battle against Municipal Demarcation Board to be excluded from the new Malamulele municipality.
Police said two schools were set alight at Masakona on Wednesday evening, apparently by the protesters bringing the number of schools that were torched to 17.
On Thursday schools in the area, many of them destroyed by fire, remained closed and few learners were seen around the streets. Even the protesters had melted away as the police presence became more apparent.
Vuwani residents had launched a high court bid following an announcement by the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) in 2014 that one municipality in Limpopo’s Vhembe district would be demarcated to fall under the Malamulele municipality.
In court papers, the Vuwani Task team argued that the MDB initiation to public hearings deceived them to believe that they would not be affected. They were under the impression that the consultation was about the disolving of Mutale.
But MDB council told the court that the Vuwani application against demarcation could delay local government elections scheduled for 3 August 2016.
They also submitted that Vuwani will have a chance to make fresh applications in 2020.
Owing to the protests commuters, mainly workers, remained stranded. Some opted to walk for long distances because taxis could not access the area because protesters had barricaded the roads with objects and burning tyres.
“We don’t have a choice but to walk for a long distance, we cannot say they must stop protesting because we also need an explanation, on why they did not consult us,” said Maria Munyai, a farm worker.
Learners said they were worried the torching of schools would cause them to miss mid-year examination as they are scheduled to start in two weeks.
Livhuwani Makhado, a grade 4 learner at Mashau primary said: “Our school was burnt, we saw the flames, its boring because we want to be educated, they should not prevent us from getting education”.
Vuwani police spokesman Elaijah Malatji said in the latest arson attacks on Wednesday night four classrooms were burnt at Munwai Primary School while a staff room was burnt down at Tshinavhe Secondary School.
Malatji said no arrest had yet been made in connection with the arson attacks.
Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha’s provincial Cabinet was expected to meet with traditional leaders later Thursday in a bid to end the protest.
– African News Agency (ANA)
South Africa Today – South Africa News