Cooperative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula and Limpopo Premier Stanley Mathabatha had to be whisked away to safety from angry residents of the violence-torn Vuwani, outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo, yesterday.
Incensed residents booed the ministers and chased them away following President Jacob Zuma’s no-show at the meeting that had been arranged to address the angry community.
Zuma had promised to give the residents feedback about a prior meeting held in Gauteng on May 2, between him and the local traditional leadership of Vuwani, on the widespread contestation regarding the municipal re-demarcation of the area.
The issue to be addressed concerned the rejection by Vuwani residents of the Polokwane High Court ruling last year that upheld a decision to incorporate Vuwani into a newly established municipality called Lim 345.
Yesterday’s situation became volatile after the residents, who had waited from 9am to 3pm for Zuma to address them at the Vuwani sport grounds, became incensed. Vha-Venda King Mphephu Ramabulana, who was received with loud applause and cheers from the more than 6 000 residents, was the first to speak.
Thereafter the crowd fell into a thunderous booing of the ministerial delegation, who was about to address them on the issues.
The Limpopo MEC for cooperative governance, housing and traditional affairs, Makoma Makhurupetsa, had her hands full trying to calm down the crowd. They literally showed the delegation the middle finger and called for Zuma to speak to them in person.
Two minutes was enough for the delegation to vacate the huge marquee tent on the sports ground, while disgruntled residents started hurling insults and throwing objects onto the stage.
“We had a message for the residents but we could not disseminate it since the situation was getting out of hand,” said a visually petrified Makhurupetsa.
The MEC, who is also a member of national executive committee of the ANC Women’s League, said Zuma was indeed in the area to address the crowd.
“But he would not come to the event as he was still assessing the situation,” she said, walking to her official vehicle, which was ready to drive her away from the angry residents now running amok, throwing stones and pelting police vehicles with objects.
Makhurupetsa told journalists that it was Zuma’s intention to ask all involved stakeholders – comprising local traditional leaders, the Pro-Makhado Demarcation Task Team and residents – to call their strike off and allow children to go back to school and business to operate again, while government deals with the impasse.
A resident of Vuwani and an ANC activist, Livuwani Mulaudzi, said Zuma had “chickened out” because he knew he had no powers to overturn the court decision.
Mulaudzi said Zuma would need to “follow the right legal channels to overturn the ruling. “All we want is not Lim 345 or the Vhembe district municipality,” she said. “We want to fall under Makhado local municipality, nothing less and nothing more,” the angry Mulaudzi said.
The brouhaha in Vuwani started two years ago after members of the community rejected the contentious demarcation decision by the Municipal Demarcation Board.