Too lit­tle, too late for Vuwani

CityPress - - Voices -

It was only on Thurs­day that the govern­ment woke up to re­alise that Vuwani, in the far north of Lim­popo, was burn­ing.

An in­termin­is­te­rial team was dis­patched to the area to calm the sit­u­a­tion and fix the prob­lem.

But this in­ter­ven­tion from na­tional govern­ment has come a lit­tle too late for thou­sands of school­child­ren who have been left in limbo af­ter sev­eral schools were burnt or van­dalised by res­i­dents re­fus­ing to ac­cept a de­ci­sion to be in­cor­po­rated into an­other mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Why did it take na­tional govern­ment so long to in­ter­vene, and could the dam­age have been avoided?

Dur­ing the 2014 na­tional elec­tions, vi­o­lent protests erupted in Alexan­dra, just across the high­way from Sand­ton. Al­most im­me­di­ately, the army was roped in and de­ployed to quell the vi­o­lence af­ter build­ings were van­dalised by an­gry res­i­dents who claimed that the elec­tion re­sults had been rigged. In a mat­ter of days, life in Alex was nor­malised, peo­ple ar­rested and charged, and the army con­tin­ued pa­trolling the streets un­til calm was com­pletely re­stored.

Shortly af­ter los­ing a court bid on Fri­day to re­verse the Mu­nic­i­pal De­mar­ca­tion Board’s de­ci­sion to in­cor­po­rate Vuwani into Mala­mulele, the com­mu­nity be­gan its vi­o­lent protest. On Sun­day, sev­eral schools and build­ings were set alight or van­dalised and, by Thurs­day, 24 schools had been af­fected.

In the re­cent past, it has be­come nor­mal for pro­test­ers to burn schools, clin­ics, li­braries and of­fices in an at­tempt to voice their con­cerns.

Why Vuwani was not pri­ori­tised, and the army not dis­patched to pro­tect state prop­erty, is not clear. But the dam­age has been done and thou­sands of chil­dren face a bleak fu­ture – all be­cause govern­ment failed to pro­tect them, while still search­ing for the “third force” be­hind the at­tacks.

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