Rule by rogue elements allegedly dominating unrest among drastically increasing pockets of discontent across Limpopo contributes to Premier Stan Mathabatha and his Provincial Cabinet being perceived to be battling with more explosive flare-ups than ever before.
The Provincial Government seemingly has to cope with biting off more service delivery demands than it can chew as protests that often turn violent are regarded to be growing in prevalence and magnitude as communities scattered across the province air demands and grievances for the delivery or improvement of services. No region appears to have been spared the collective of protests rocking Limpopo the past months.
At the time of going to press information was received that the road between Punda Maria and Thohoyandou was open again after having been barricaded since Monday following community members allegedly going on the rampage after discovering the remains of a man in a vehicle in Khwekhwe earlier that day. Thus far it had been established that one house was torched in the process, Levubu Police spokesperson Solly Mukhola told Polokwane Observer. A case of public violence was being investigated and no arrests have been made as yet amid the situation remaining calm but tense, he concluded.
The biggest protests in the province this year had played out in hotspots in the Malamulele, Vuwani, Lephalale, Burgersfort, Zebediela, Mankweng, Thohoyandou, Sekororo, Maake, Mapela, Nebo, Namakgale and most recently Polokwane areas.
In an analysis of the current scenario in the province, Provincial Government Spokesperson Phuti Seloba gave the assurance that the administration was in control of the situation. He pointed out that in the minority of cases communities had genuine service delivery concerns, while an opportunistic criminal element and others with selfish political interests used restlessness among communities to fuel emotions that in many instances led to violence. He estimated a mere 0,5% of all violent protests in Limpopo to be emanating from legitimate demands for service delivery.
Seloba expressed the opinion that a certain level of ignorance was seen to play a role in the true state of affairs in cases where angry communities had grievances based on their perceptions of, among others, the awarding of tenders for projects such as the tarring of roads in their area, which had already been dealt with at the time such protest action would have commenced. In some instances protest action had been the result of disgruntlement over a host of problems affecting communities but proved not to be related to service delivery delays, such as demarcated borders, employment disputes or ritual killings in Malamulele, Vuwani, Lephalale and the Vhembe district respectively.
The fact that the government would continue to get involved through intervention in all instances was attributed to the fact that it was a compassionate administration that could not ignore issues causing its people to have sleepless nights, Seloba said.
He emphasised that Mathabatha and his cabinet were on top of service delivery in the province. Over and above the provincial government had tangible achievements to boast, particularly in the accelerated provision of housing that currently stood at more than 100% improvement compared to this time last year, as was the case with the rehabilitation of roads across the province, he said. Seloba continued to refer to the success of the Cuban medical scholarship programme allowing for 110 local students to study abroad this year and the recent commissioning of 100 ambulances for use at stations in all districts. “The province is on an upward spiral where service delivery is concerned.” The provincial administration was humbled by the confidence its people still showed in government by demanding more in terms of service delivery, he mentioned. If people had written off the government, they would not have asked anything from them or have marched to the highest provincial office with their demands but to the Union Buildings instead. The provincial government was of the belief that people had the right to protest but had to do it peacefully and without disrupting schooling, he stressed.
The magnitude of protest has never hit as close to home as when a delegation of representatives of the learner component and School Governing Body (SGB) of Luthuli Park Combined School took their dissatisfaction to Parliamentary Village last Wednesday evening after their reported removal during a sit-in at Education MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe’s office that day.
They afterwards indicated their actions had been aimed at fixing the MEC’s attention to a list of trouble spots affecting schooling at the institution. Matters took a turn for the worst when innocent young learners and teachers of Laerskool Pietersburg-Noord (Noordskool) were allegedly attacked in class the following day, casting suspicion on the same group. On Friday morning the delegation awaited feedback on an afternoon meeting with Kgetjepe as apparently communicated by the Premier’s Office. By Monday morning it was learnt that parents of the school were considering the legal route to force Kgetjepe to adhere to their demands for assistance after the Friday meeting had not materialised.
By yesterday (Wednesday) morning a startling silence on the grounds of Luthuli Park Combined School while teaching continued at every other school but those affected by protest action as is currently happening in Zebediela, had been broken after almost two weeks of loss in learning and teaching hours. According to sources schooling stopped when learners embarked on strike action, largely sparked by dismay over broken furniture unfit for use in classrooms. The only sight that met the gaze last Friday was that of discarded iron bars and wooden panels, apparently hand-me-downs from other schools in the area. That morning 58 single desks were reportedly delivered, some bearing the marks of vandalism having already been in use elsewhere. Sources pointed out that it was not even a drop in the ocean considering the fact that the school accommodated some 1 400 primary and secondary school learners.
At the time of going to press confirmation was received that schooling had re-commenced yesterday morning to avoid children suffering any further, amid arrangements for a meeting with non-governmental organisation Section 27 mainly on the legal way forward with regards to the need for building of a high school and expectations for the delivery of more furniture.
Story: YOLANDE NEL
Top photo: Luthuli Park Combined School Learner Representative Council President, Thobane Mohlaloga and Congress of South African Students (Cosas) Regional Secretary, Mpho Tlolane demonstrate the use of stumps of wood otherwise earmarked for firewood and removed dilapidated furniture from classrooms before learners went on strike a fortnight ago.