SECURITY has been tightened in Limpopo’s troubled Vuwani area as former President Thabo Mbeki weighs in on the on-going violent protests.
Mbeki condemned the burning of schools during a panel discussion on the celebration of 20 years since the adoption of the constitution in Pretoria today.
When asked whether the constitution protected pupils from having their rights trampled upon by those who burnt schools, Mbeki replied:
“It is illegal to go and burn libraries, trains and all of these infrastructures. The law needs to be enforced.”
However, he said the protests were part of bigger problems in the country.
In Vuwani, police were patrolling the area in a bid to prevent protesters from smuggling in materials to manufacture petrol bombs.
They were seen conducting body searches in the streets, with roadblocks set up in key points.
Police spokesman Malesela Ledwaba said at least 23 suspects have been arrested in connection with violence and the obstruction of traffic.
The destruction of school infrastructure has robbed dozens of pupils of access to education.
No fewer than 25 schools were gutted and some desks and chairs dumped on the streets, as barricades.
President Jacob Zuma this week deployed a team of ministers, led by State Security Minister David Mahlobo, to bring calm to the area.
They warned at a media briefing in Thohoyandou on Thursday that those who supplied protesters with petrol would be arrested.
Mahlobo, flanked by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des Van Rooyen and his Limpopo counterparts Makoma Makhurupetje, announced that a specialised police unit would be deployed to work with intelligence services in probing the instigators.
Angry villagers destroyed public property as they protested against the Municipal Demarcation Board’s decision to include their area into the new Malamulele municipality.
A series of meetings were held between traditional leaders, VhaVenda King Tonny Mphephu Ramabulana and the ministers this week to try to avert further damage to property.
King Ramabulana said he supported the campaign by Vuwani residents but not the violence.
He said the granting of a municipality to Malamulele residents should not come at the expense of those from Vuwani, because the latter never requested one.
The king said he would ask Zuma to reverse the decision.
Protests started after Vuwani residents lost a high court bid two weeks ago to have the board’s decision reviewed.
They said they had not been consulted about their incorporation.
Traditional leaders and members of the Vuwani Task Team had repeatedly said that the board’s invitation to the public hearings did not specify that their areas would be affected by the new demarcations.
As a result they did not participate in the hearings or oppose their incorporation into Malamulele.
However, the court dismissed their application, saying the board’s decision was rational.