Trib­al­ism time bomb

Com­pre­hen­sive so­cial co­he­sion pro­gramme likely to be con­sid­ered to ad­dress ten­sion in Lim­popo vil­lages Vuwani school lock­down ten­sion

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

De­faced road signs, on which Venda vil­lage names are con­cealed un­der black spray paint and re­placed with Tsonga ones in white paint, are a new sight around Bun­geni vil­lage near Vuwani in Lim­popo – in­di­cat­ing a seething threat that could un­leash dev­as­tat­ing cul­tural vi­o­lence be­tween the two groups.

While these vil­lagers shared re­sources for decades and in­ter­mar­ried, res­i­dents spoke this week of in­ci­dents of pas­sen­gers be­ing thrown out of minibus taxis and staff kicked out of a lo­cal clinic be­cause they spoke “a dif­fer­ent lan­guage” – a shock­ing re­al­ity that tra­di­tional lead­ers in the area are strug­gling to come to grips with.

These are un­der­cur­rents of trib­al­ism sim­mer­ing and threat­en­ing the time-hon­oured re­la­tion­ship be­tween Venda and Tsonga cul­tural groups that have for a long time lived side by side. And the ten­sions are play­ing out in the on­go­ing protests against the re­draft of mu­nic­i­pal bor­ders that have di­vided the com­mu­ni­ties around the vil­lages in Vuwani.

Livhuwani Mat­sila, chief of Mat­sila in the Vuwani area, has ex­pressed con­cerns over the ugly head of trib­al­ism ris­ing.

“It is a real is­sue in this whole protest and it can’t be ig­nored. Venda peo­ple have been at­tacked in Tsonga ar­eas and the di­vi­sion be­tween the two groups has been deep­en­ing as the protest es­ca­lates,” he said.

Co­op­er­a­tive Gover­nance Min­is­ter Des van Rooyen told the me­dia of in­ci­dents in­flu­enced by trib­al­ism in the area. “We have picked up that some staff mem­bers at a clinic in Mashau were ex­pelled from [work] based on the lan­guage that they speak. The taxi in­dus­try in­formed us that some pas­sen­gers were re­moved from taxis be­cause of the lan­guage they speak,” he said.

“As govern­ment, we think we should pay full at­ten­tion to the prob­lem. We will in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions of trib­al­ism and look for a so­lu­tion such as a com­pre­hen­sive so­cial co­he­sion pro­gramme to ad­dress this.”

At least 25 schools were burnt and van­dalised in the past two weeks, forc­ing com­mu­ni­ties in Tsonga vil­lages to guard their schools with their lives. Vil­lages dom­i­nated by Tsonga speak­ers do not have a prob­lem with be­ing in­cor­po­rated into the new mu­nic­i­pal en­tity that will con­trol Mala­mulele vil­lages and oth­ers that pre­vi­ously fell un­der Thu­lamela and Makhado mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Thou­sands of pupils will walk into piles of ashes from burnt fur­ni­ture, caved-in roofs, bro­ken class­rooms win­dows and flame-roasted walls in Vuwani vil­lages if they heed the govern­ment’s call to re­turn to school to­mor­row.

They will face the harsh re­al­i­ties left in the af­ter­math of vi­o­lent protests that rav­aged their area in the past two weeks. These fol­lowed the es­tab­lish­ment of a new Mala­mulele mu­nic­i­pal­ity, which has led to the de­mar­ca­tion board re­draw­ing the mu­nic­i­pal bor­ders and sep­a­rat­ing vil­lages along tribal lines.

On Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ap­pointed in­ter­min­is­te­rial team, led by Co­op­er­a­tive Gover­nance Min­is­ter Des van Rooyen, ex­pressed hope that a lock­down in Vuwani would be lifted to en­able school­ing to re­sume.

But com­mu­nity lead­ers were not sup­port­ive of the govern­ment’s move, vow­ing to keep the vil­lages around Vuwani shut down “un­til the de­mar­ca­tion de­ci­sion that af­fects the area is re­versed”.

Vye­boom Vil­lage Civic As­so­ci­a­tion spokesper­son Nsovo Sambo ac­cused the govern­ment of talk­ing to vil­lages through the me­dia.

“We hear schools are re­open­ing in Vuwani on Mon­day. Maybe there is an­other Vuwani some­where else. We re­main res­o­lute that this to­tal lock­down con­tin­ues un­til the de­mar­ca­tion de­ci­sion that af­fects our area is re­versed,” Sambo said.

With at least 25 schools de­stroyed and badly dam­aged in ar­son in­ci­dents, ef­forts were be­ing made to ac­com­mo­date the 60 000 af­fected pupils.

Some spir­i­tual lead­ers had stepped in and of­fered their churches to be used as class­rooms in the in­terim, said Lim­popo’s co­op­er­a­tive SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word SCHOOLS and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 gover­nance, hu­man set­tle­ment and tra­di­tional af­fairs MEC, Makoma Makhu­ru­petje.

Van Rooyen said mo­bile class­rooms from other parts of Lim­popo and other prov­inces would over the week­end be trans­ported to Vuwani to en­sure the chil­dren had shel­ter.

State Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter David Mahlobo also vis­ited the area last week to en­gage tra­di­tional lead­ers and other so­cial for­ma­tions.

But some com­mu­nity lead­ers ac­cused the of­fi­cials of sidelin­ing them and hold a dif­fer­ent view on whether school­ing should re­sume.

“They have been meet­ing tra­di­tional lead­ers but our chiefs do not really rep­re­sent our views. Civic groups from all vil­lages will meet on Sun­day to con­sol­i­date com­mu­nity sen­ti­ments. But the ma­jor­ity of civic lead­ers are al­ready say­ing the shut­down con­tin­ues,” Sambo said.

The in­ter­min­is­te­rial team fo­cused on restor­ing calm and sta­bil­ity in the area and promised to en­gage all stake­hold­ers and com­mu­ni­ties over their griev­ances.

“We’ve agreed that we should ini­ti­ate pro­cesses of di­a­logue around their reser­va­tions and con­cern on the is­sue of de­mar­ca­tions.

“Come Mon­day, it should be all sys­tems go as far as school­ing is con­cerned. Busi­nesses should open and ob­vi­ously we ex­pect that nor­mal­ity will pre­vail and that ne­go­ti­a­tions around com­mu­nity con­cerns ... will si­mul­ta­ne­ously con­tinue,” Van Rooyen promised.

Nsovo said, how­ever, they would rather have engagements on de­mar­ca­tion first. “You can’t say the roof is leak­ing and you are busy mop­ping up the floor and not fix­ing the leak­age.

“They need to ad­dress the burn­ing is­sue first, which is the cause of in­sta­bil­ity and the only thing that will bring sta­bil­ity once re­solved,” he in­sisted.

PHOTO: SANDILE NDLOVU / GALLO IM­AGES

FLAMES OF FURY Peo­ple watch as the Mari­adza In­clu­sive School burns in Lim­popo. Schools in the area were burnt down last week by dis­grun­tled res­i­dents protest­ing against mu­nic­i­pal de­mar­ca­tion

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