Vuwani in Limpopo is again on the edge after the collapse of a deal brokered last year by former president Jacob Zuma and Vhavenda King Toni Mphephu-Ramabulana to resolve a municipal boundary dispute.
As a result, the Pro-Makhado Task Team – a group of leaders at the forefront of the protest – is now pushing for another “total shutdown” of the area. Hundreds of residents are expected to gather at a mass meeting today to take a decision.
In the past the area experienced an unprecedented form of violent protests. This was after the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) decided, before the 2016 municipal elections, to incorporate the area into the newly constituted Lim345 municipality, now known as Collins Chabane, in Malamulele.
The residents staged violent protests demanding they remain under the jurisdiction of the Makhado municipality.
More than 10 schools, several government buildings and business properties were set alight.
The task team now believes the deal reached during a visit by Zuma in May last year is being ignored by provincial authorities for political reasons. The deal included the Vhembe district municipality taking over the delivery of services while the municipal boundary dispute was being sorted.
Task team spokesperson Nsovo Sambo said the area was on the edge of slipping into another chaotic situation.
“The deadly politics within the government left the instruction by Zuma being implemented selectively and at a slow pace. The community has become impatient. The leadership is very much intact and people could become angry because of the government’s arrogance.”
Sambo said people were feeling uncertain: “The government should speak to and answer the people.”
He said the government needed to keep the promise to solve the problem by effecting a provincial executive committee resolution or redetermining the boundaries before the 2019 national general elections.
Sambo said certain provincial departments, such as cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs, were reluctant to provide services to Vuwani.
He cited the example of an access road project which had since been stopped: “The money was given to Lim345 [Collins Chabane] municipality and was used for something else.”
He said schools and clinics were now under the jurisdiction of the Collins Chabane municipality. Residents have rejected this move because they do not want to fall under that municipality, but rather under Makhado.
“The only service being rendered per the deal is a traffic station run by the transport department,” Sambo said.
City Press was reliably told by some officials involved in the matter that the Vuwani issue was being complicated by the blurring of lines of competency between the national and provincial authorities.
However, this was denied by provincial government spokesperson Phuti Seloba, who insisted the solution “lies with all the stakeholders, not a particular stakeholder”.
He said the provincial government was never part of the municipal boundary demarcation: “That was dealt with by the MDB. Our involvement was mainly on the basis that we need to work with people to make sure we solve the problem.”
However, Seloba said provisions of the law cannot be ignored.
“We need to look at what are the provisions of the law that empower us to move forward. On the basis of that, our understanding is that there are provisions that allow us to do certain things. There are certain things that will tie our hands.
“You cannot disregard the involvement of the duly constituted municipality of Collins Chabane. As much as they [Vuwani residents] are rejecting it, you work towards a solution with them,” Seloba said.- City Press