Ac­tivist: I’ll die for Vuwani

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

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.

PHOTO: LUCKY NX­U­MALO

Nsovo Sambo

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