On Thursday, Limpopo police were monitoring the situation in Malamulele, Limpopo following days of violent protests.
“No incidents that have needed police attention have been reported since last night,” said Colonel Ronel Otto.
Residents want to be separated from the Thulamela municipality, based about 50km from the villages on the edge of the Kruger National Park, and are demanding their own municipality. They claim that the municipality prioritises services to Tshivenda-speaking sections – a claim the municipality denies.
Their demands have fuelled tensions between Tshivenda and Xitsonga speakers and triggered division among local traditional leaders as some regard it as a tribal issue.
Threats to escalate protest
Protesters have laid the blame on the Municipal Demarcation Board for not heeding their call. Speaking on SAFM on Tuesday during a debate with the Limpopo government spokesperson Phuti Seloba on the protests, Malamulele task team spokesperson Dr Isaah Ndambi said government has until Friday to respond to their demands, failing which they will escalate their protest action.
The team was waiting for a scheduled visit by officials from the co-operative governance department on Wednesday, after having received an email from the department stating that they would visit. It was unclear whether or not the meeting had taken place. “I know though that there have been a series of meetings over the last few days,” said Otto.
At least 100 schools were reportedly affected by the protest when protesters barred pupils from attending school. Malamulele came to a standstill when protesters forced shops in the local mall to close two days before inland schools were due to open for the new academic year. Schools and businesses in the area still remain closed.
Closure of schools ‘condemned’
The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the education alliance on Tuesday expressed concern over the closure of schools, with the SAHRC calling on residents to respect children’s right to education. The commission said the forceful removal of children from school was a violation of a right and an offence punishable by law.
It also said that it had launched an investigation into the alleged lack of adequate service delivery in the area last year. The organisation said that, “if correct, [the lack of service delivery] borders on violation of socio economic rights”.
It called on authorities concerned, such as the cooperative governance department, to do everything possible to end the impasse in Malamulele.
However, Malamulele task team secretary general Isaac Nukeri prompted the SAHRC to “come here and see the situation we are faced with”. He said the situation in the area was tense, and only health workers were allowed in and out of the area.
“All shops are closed … we do not even have bread. We are prepared to continue like this until our demands are met.”
Speaking on behalf of the education alliance, SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said that “learners’ opportunity to learn has been jeopardised”.
Maluleke was addressing reporters at the Landulwazi Comprehensive High School in Thokoza, south of Johannesburg, along with members of the Congress of SA students, the SA Students Congress, and the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union.
Also on Tuesday, deputy minister in the presidency, Buti Manamela, condemned the closure of schools “in the strongest terms”.
In a press release issued by the office of the presidency, the deputy minister said that the “community in Malamulele is literally denying young people their right to education by closing down schools and denying others from registering for their Grade 12 supplementary examinations …
“It is becoming a trend that the future of our youth is traded for short-term community demands, a gamble which these young people will in the future blame their parents for. We cannot allow any grievance, no matter how strongly we feel about it, to interfere with the education of our children.”