Too little, too late for Vuwani
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.