Activist: I’ll die for Vuwani
He had a strong feeling that his invitation from the police to come in “for questioning” would become an arrest, but Nsovo Sambo was prepared for the ultimate. Sambo had become the face of the Vuwani municipal demarcation struggle, bravely giving media interviews, and appearing on TV news, his voice heard on radio and read in the papers.
He was unapologetic about the community’s decision to halt schooling but in the same breath, he condemned violence.
The soft-spoken community leader from Vyeboom village defended the community’s actions against those accusing them of using children as a bargaining tool, saying it was a “sacrifice” they had decided on.
“I knew one day this would land me in trouble but someone had to do it for the community’s views to be heard. I do not regret being my community’s messenger,” he told City Press this week.
“I agreed to speak for the community but it seems now this was wrong in the eyes of the authorities. It is like our voice was not supposed to be heard on any media platform. I never decided as an individual that the shutdown should remain but I delivered to the media decisions taken by the communities.”
He said his spokesperson role soon turned him into a wanted man. “I did all this for the community, expressing their views and by so doing, I automatically became a wanted man by the police.
“I am tired of living on the run especially after my own father was held in captivity by police for several hours after they raided my house looking for me,” he said.
Vuwani was plunged into chaotic protests that left more than 20 schools damaged in arson incidents as the community took to the streets in protest against the redrafting of municipal borders. This was after their legal bid to have the demarcation board decision to incorporate areas around Vuwani and Hlanganani into a new municipality entity with Malamulele from Makhado municipality failed.
Despite wide criticism, the schools were closed as a strategic move to put pressure on authorities to have the redrafting decision reversed.
Tomorrow will be the start of the eighth week of no schooling in areas clustered under Vuwani.
Their case is set to be heard in the Constitutional Court but the community said even this would not get them to lift their shutdown.
Sambo spoke to City Press after plans were finalised for him to meet the police “for questioning”.
“I have a strong feeling I won’t be coming back after that purported questioning. We have always, as community leaders, condemned violence and urged the police to arrest perpetrators who were defocusing our struggle and now this has come back to haunt us,” Sambo said.
“We expect police to do their work but not to harass anyone or employ any tactics that are aimed at silencing the community. We can be arrested but I can assure you it won’t change the situation as all the community is demanding is the reversal of the demarcation decision.
“I am ready to be persecuted and die for my community but I remain resolute in support of the protest against municipal borders. I don’t believe arresting community leaders will change the situation in a community that has decided only reversal of the demarcation decision will end it all.”
Sambo spent the weekend behind bars and is due to appear in court tomorrow on charges of arson, damage to property and public violence.
“If my phone is off after my visit to the police station, know that I have been arrested,” he said on Thursday before he went to the police. His phone has been off since Friday morning. Meanwhile, a traditional leader in one of the affected villages, Chief Livhuwani Matsila, said there had been a number of community meetings with a view to lifting the shutdown. “There is general consensus that disruption of schooling should not be tolerated but people only express their honest views in private meetings because they are fearful of being victims of the reigning anarchy. Learners themselves are frustrated and have been complaining bitterly on social media that their future was at stake here,” he said.
The government’s efforts to return the pupils to school had remained unsuccessful, with 52 827 (including 2 600 matriculants) of them still out of the classrooms. “If schooling doesn’t resume soon, the vital time lost may result in all these learners having to repeat the year,” basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga warned this week.