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Demarcation board decision leads to protest action in Vhembe

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Services were brought to a halt and schooling disrupted in Vuwani following a recent decision by the Municipal Demarcation Board that areas from Vuwani, Malamu-lele and Saselemani have the potential to be economically viable to form a new municipality.
Traditional authorities, including those of the Masia, Nesengani, Davhona, Mulenzhe and Tshikonelo are reportedly against the Board’s decision to merge the areas, and communities from affected communities have started to block roads in the area.
The roads affected and blocked by stones and other debris are roads to Thohoyandou, Vuvhani and Malamulele.
Traditional leader Mbhangiseni Masia in a radio interview on a SAfm PM Live current affairs programme said they did not ask to be part of any other municipality and wanted to remain part of the Louis Trichardt (Makhado) Municipality.
A memorandum comprising their demands was handed over on Monday to the MEC for Health, Phohpi Ramathuba who accepted it on behalf of the Limpopo Premier, Stanley Mathabatha. Residents demanded that the decision of the Demarcation Board be reversed. After handing over the memo, the people disbursed peacefully, but vowed that protest action would continue until their demands were met.
Police are monitoring the situation, although Ronel Otto, Spokesperson for the police on Tuesday said the situation was quiet and no roads were blocked. Phuti Seloba, Provincial Government Spokesperson, said the memo would be passed on to the Municipal Demarcation Board where it belongs.
“It was never the competency of the provincial government to decide upon municipal borders, this is the task of the board,” he said. He added that the provincial government would like to thank the people of the area for the peaceful way in which they protested and that they refrained from further protests. He said he wished some communities could draw a lesson from the Vuwani community that they could actively demonstrate, but keep within the law.
Jane Thupana, chairperson of the Municipal Demarcation Board told Polo-kwane Observer that, looking at all factors, this demarcation was the only one that made sense and the process had no link to the Malemulele case as such as their proposal did not meet criteria and the minister was dealing with yet another process at the time. She said almost all of Limpopo’s districts were affected by the demarcation process as the Board were looking at what it takes to have a viable municipality.
“After a consultation process the people of Malamulele understood and sobered up. It is a process governed by the law, and they were taking part in the process. They understood their idea of a separate municipality was not viable. We received a lot of inputs from Limpopo and we decided to consult further with the people, although not compelled by any law to do so.”
Thupana said it was agreed the Mutale Municipality must be disestablished, as it was one of the most unviable municipalities in the country.
“It was not fair that Vhembe only had three very large local municipalities, benchmarked against other district municipalities. It removes people further from service delivery and governance and it was not fair. In Thulamela one councillor may have 15 000 people in a ward while some other wards comprised 4 000 to 6 000 people. We had to look at a fourth municipality and the eastern side of Vhembe was the most viable, geographically and in terms of continuous settlements. There are 300 000
people in the area. Vuvani is closer to Thulamela than to Makhado too. The area is more viable than some other local municipalities in the province. We have to find a balance somehow,” Thupana explained.

Story: NELIE ERASMUS
>>nelie.observer@gmail.com