Five more schools have reportedly been set alight in Vuwani as the chaos that engulfed the area last night has flared up again.
Police are trying desperately to disperse crowds that have gathered in the cluster of villages around Vuwani, in Thohoyandou, Limpopo.
The area this morning resembled a ghost town – there wasn’t much movement across Vuwani expect for police vehicles on patrol and officers who had been stationed strategically at shopping centres, fire stations and other buildings – and authorities were focused on quelling the fires that destroyed at least 17 schools during violent protests.
A meeting aimed at ending the protests was also under way, but residents had said they did not think it would yield any positive results in the absence of community representatives, who had boycotted it.
Communities from a cluster of villages surrounding Vuwani had been on the rampage since Sunday following their failed legal attempt to have a Municipal Demarcation Board’s decision to move them from Makhado local municipality reversed.
According to the new demarcation, Vuwani’s villages will now become part of a new municipality that will incorporate Malamulele.
The communities and pro-Makhado committee leaders, who were not part of today’s meeting, reportedly said they would continue with the protest until the demarcation decision was reversed.
Community leaders have refused to talk to the media.
The meeting is being held by a Limpopo government task team consisting of at least four MECs, the police, and traditional and religious leaders.
Premier Stan Mathabatha’s spokesperson Kenny Mathiva said they were trying to get representatives from the community to attend the meeting. Mathiva added that the meeting could continue over the next few days as the group raced to find common ground and end violence in Vuwani.
Meanwhile, the police presence was being beefed up in Vuwani and officers were being deployed from other provinces, including the North West. Police were clearing roads that had been barricaded with burning tyres, rocks and tree branches.
The fire damage included 17 schools as well as a tribal administration office, four municipal trucks and a police trailer. With no action during the morning, police believed that the plan was to hit at night, and are currently racing to get more personnel to guard the remaining schools – about 50 – in the area.
The violent protests in Vuwani followed similar incidents in Malamulele, which recently won its demarcation battle. The villages of mainly Tsonga speaker had for several years fought to be removed from Thulamela municipality, which is in Thohoyandou – a Venda-speaking area.
Protesting Malamulele communities dismissed reports of tribalism and said it was related to service delivery.
The Vuwani communities – comprised of mainly Venda-speakers – are refusing to be part of a new municipality that would have its head office in Malamulele.
There were reports that cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Des van Rooyen was en route to Limpopo to try to bring calm to the area.
Pictures by Lucky Nxumalo:
Schools in Vuwani, Limpopo were torched last night. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo