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Large police contingency in Vuwani as elections near

There is a large police force in Vuwani outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo in preparation for next week’s municipal elections.

Elections will take place in 13 wards in the area. Some residents are protesting against the incorporation of their area into a new municipality.

Government and local traditional leaders signed an agreement under which boundaries in the municipality will be re-determined. Political parties started campaigning on Thursday for the elections.

A day after the signing of an agreement between concerned traditional leaders from Vuwani and the inter-ministerial team, the situation is still volatile in some parts of Vuwani.

At the most volatile village of Vyeboom, access roads are still blockaded with stones, tree branches and other objects. Several trenches have also been dug on the roads.

Protesters are making it difficult for police and ordinary motorists to access the area. Vyeboom is the area where majority of the protesters live.

The pro-Makahdo demarcation task team, a community body opposed to the incorporation of their villages into the new municipal entity, reiterates that they are going to boycott the elections.

Spokesperson Nsovo Sambo is adamant that although Co-operative Governance Minister Des Van Rooyen and eight traditional leaders in the Vuwani area have signed an agreement, its members will boycott next week’s elections.

“It’s not binding to us as the pro-Makhado people. For the past two days until tomorrow (Saturday), the shutdown will be suspended and the services are running smoothly. And then later tomorrow at half past five pm, the shutdown will continue. So nothing has changed for us. The agreement will be effected after August 3.”

Some residents however say they are prepared to vote in the local elections next week, but they need police to guarantee their safety. A resident of Mashau says she’s doubtful that government will keep its promise to re-determine the boundaries after the elections.

“I really do not know what to say because government has made promises before, they had endless meetings with the traditional leaders, we really want to go and vote but we fear for our safety if they can bring in enough soldiers and police because we are being intimidated we are more than ready to go cast our votes.”

A public administration analyst from the University of Limpopo, Lucas Nemutandzhela says it seems government and the concerned traditional leaders have negotiated in good faith. He says that the fact that the protest happened in an election year added pressure on government to speedily resolve the impasse.

“An agreement of that magnitude is something that if one party to the agreement renege it can be a very unfortunate situation; I wouldn’t expect that from the government and the traditional leaders I don’t think it will be a gimmick and that each party will stick to the requirements of that agreement.”

Political analyst Elvis Masoga says the Municipal Demarcation Board and other government institutions need to do more in educating communities on importance of municipal boundaries.

“I think the municipal demarcation board should assume leadership in terms of educating citizens about what does it mean to belong to a particular municipality because I am surprised why some people can fight for hell and water in resisting to belong to a particular municipality despite the fact that they are not aware of the advantages and disadvantages of being moved from municipality A to municipality B.”

Police’s spokesperson Ronel Otto says the large police contingent deployed in the area will be working with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to ensure that there is a conducive environment for voting.

“We have already activated our provincial joint centre from where our activities of the whole province will be monitored, we are working with other departments, IEC, SANDF and we have a large deployment of police throughout the province, Vuwani is definately one of the areas where our focus will be, we are closely monitoring the situation in that area.”

The newly demarcated municipality consists of 36 wards, 13 of which are in the Vuwani area.

The IEC says at least 44 000 residents from the Vuwani areas are on the voters roll. 11 political parties and six independent candidates are contesting the municipal elections.

 

 

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