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Tribalism divides Limpopo’s Vhembe region

  • by African Times
  • 1 year ago
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RUSSEL MOLEFE

RESIDENTS of strife-torn Malamulele in Limpopo have adopted resolutions with far-reaching consequences for
ethnic harmony and social cohesion in the province.

Accusing their Venda-speaking neighbours of tribalism and hatred for Tsongas in the Vhembe district, they resolved to push for the relocation of their new Lim 345 municipality to Mopani – in a move which effectively seeks to
return Limpopo to the apartheid era Bantustan boundaries.

At a mass meeting held in Malamulele on Sunday, the residents agreed to push for the Tsonga-speaking areas stretching as far as Elim under the Makhado municipality to be incorporated into the new Lim345.

They also want the new entity to be moved from the jurisdiction of Vhembe district, which is predominantly Venda-speaking, to Mopani, whose residents predominantly speak Tsonga.

In a secret document which circulated at the meeting, the residents attacked Vha-Venda King Tony Mphephu Ramabulana and Balodebu Queen Modjadji, accusing them of being “legless tribalistic dragons” that wanted to “swallow Tsonga-speaking people”.
“It can be seen without reasonable doubt that these tribalistic Vendas have planned to destroy and wipe [off] the Tsonga-Shangaan from the South African map. In this regard, let us note the seriousness of the situation we find
ourselves in. The demarcation has included the area of Vuwani – the former Tsonga-Shangaan Pfukani area. But the tribalistic Vendas are refusing to integrate themselves with Tsonga-speaking people,” the document read in part.
“Their tribalism coerces them to be incorporated into either Makhado or Thulamela Municipalities. This openly indicates that the tribalistic Vendas do from the bottom of their hearts grossly hate Tsongas-Shangaan.”

TRIBAL TENSION: Residents of Vuwani call for President Jacob Zuma to address them a week ago. Picture: Lebogang Makwela / Visual Buzz SA

The meeting decided that Lim 435 must be removed from Vhembe, “as a matter of urgency particularly, because water and paraffin will never be combined to become one variable”.

The document added that “there is a secret mission to partition the Vhatsonga –Machangana between Mphephu Ramabulana and Queen Modjadji”.

“The chiefs and headmen of the whole of Malamulele and other Tsonga-Shangaan inhabited areas will be swallowed by this dragon namely: Mphephu Ramabulana. The stomach is very big enough to swallow all Tsonga and Shangaan
people,” said the document.
“Secondly, all chiefs and headmen of Giyani, Ritavi, Lulekani, Thulamashi and other Tsonga-Shangaan inhibited areas will be swallowed by this dragon in the name of Queen Modjadji. She is also hungry to swallow the Tsongas.”

It is understood that some of the resolutions adopted by the mass meeting were taken at the gathering of Vatsonga traditional leaders on Wednesday.

The media was barred from attending both meetings, but African Times can reveal that the resolutions include that:

– No project be implemented in Vuwani without the approval of Lim 345

– Lim 345 must not sign a “service delivery agreement” with Vhembe district municipality

– Lim345 councillors must not participate in the activities of the Vhembe district municipality

– Tsonga-speaking people working in Thohoyandou must be temporarily withdrawn. This must apply to Venda-speaking people working in Malamulele until the matter has been resolved.

Malamulele task team leader Dr Jan Nkuna told African Times in an interview: “Today we had a meeting
with the stakeholders and traditional leaders within Lim 345. “We were reviewing the activities
that took place in Vuwani when there was that announcement by His Excellency, our president Jacob
Zuma that services of the areas that include Vuwani that there could be possibilities that they receive
services from the Vhembe district municipality.

“So a few resolutions were taken after people engaged the matter. I could say the most important resolution was that [we] the task team with the affected traditional leaders within Lim345 should seek a meeting as soon as possible with our president, so that we can outline the resolutions that were taken. I won’t be able to outline the resolutions now because they are confidential as a matter of fact. We would like the President to know about them first before we disclose them.”

ANGRY: Malamulele residents embarked in violent protests demanding their own municipality in 2013.

He added: “From the task team point of view, we understand that the boundaries of Lim345 are the ones that were demarcated and presented by the (Municipal) Demarcation Board from the outset when municipal boundaries were

determined and this is going to be the position for five years until another demarcation will take place. Vuwani as they indicated is within Lim345 and the situation of how is going to receive services is something that we would like to thrash out as mandated by the people at this meeting.”

The Malamulele residents have been angered by a deal brokered by Vhavenda king Toni Mphephu-Ramabulana and other senior traditional leaders that Vuwani be temporarily detached from Lim 345 and receive services from Vhembe.

The residents feel the arrangement was a slap in the face of the Tsonga-speaking people and a sign that they were outcasts in the predominantly Venda-speaking region of Vhembe.

Analyst Dr Thivhilaeli Nedohe, writing for African Times Online last year, warned that tribalism was the root cause of Vuwani and Malamulele uprisings.
This was at the height of violent protests in Vuwani which came after the proclamation of Lim 345 following violence by Malamulele residents.
Nedohe wrote then: “This is a tribalistic mess which President Zuma created by executing poor and unsound judgement. Vuwani people felt that President Zuma imposed the new boundaries on them to solve a tribalistic problem. They also felt entitled to their tribalistic views as well. They feel that what is done on the left should be done on the right.”

FULL HANDS: Vuwani/Malamulele has become a political hot potato for MEC Makpma Makhurupetje. Photo: Lebogang Makwela/Visual Buzz SA.

However, the Limpopo government has always dismissed a tribal element in the matter, maintaining that the  Tsonga and Venda-speaking people have lived together for many years.

Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs MEC Makoma Makhurupetje said: “We are aware (of the Malamulele issue) because the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Des Van Rooyen) has met with them at Malamulele (on Monday, May 8). “There is a number of concerns and he has indicated, and even the President himself has indicated, that Lim 345 comprises of people of Vuwani, Hlanganani and Malamulele.

“So, the President want us to consult everybody on the new decision that was made so that when it is implemented we make the people of Vuwani happy but make the people of Malamulele or Hlanganani angry. So, we are going to make sure that we consult with everybody, but we don’t think that going to Mopani will be the best way to do things.”

On the element of tribalism in the Vuwani/Malamulele area, she said: “With people of Malamulele at that
time, their argument was that the Thulamela municipality was unable to provide services. This was never
an issue of tribalism per se. It was an issue of people raising concern and we feel that as government there
is a need for us to listen to those concerns. We must make them to find one another.”

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