Picture: ALON SKUY
Picture: ALON SKUY

A combination of fearing not being heard by the government and concerns about the economic viability of municipal demarcation fuelled the protests that resulted in 20 schools being razed to the ground in the Limpopo village of Vuwani, a new study by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) shows.

There was no evidence that the proposed new municipality that would incorporate Vuwani and Malamulele would be financially viable, HSRC researcher Professor Modimowabarwa Kanyane said at the release of the results of the study on Tuesday.

“Prior to May 2016, Vuwani was hardly synonymous with destruction of infrastructure and protests. It was a village unknown,” he said. “The reason people have been burning and fighting is because they were fighting for their rights. They weren’t asked to move to Malamulele, they were told to go.”

In 2017, Vuwani residents said they wanted the village to be reincorporated into Makhado. Economic activity in Vuwani, which has a population of about 2,800, is centred on mining, community services and finance. Its 2017-18 budget is R634m, 11% lower than the 2016-17 budget of R709m.

One of the other main factors that drove the Vuwani protests, the study shows, was residents felt they had not been consulted by the Municipal Demarcation Board and that there were protocols in which traditional leaders were a significant part of the social fabric that had not been taken into account.

“We don’t want to open the wounds of communities … but we are still agreed about the outcome of the demarcation,” said the board’s chairwoman, Jane Thupana.

Bheke Stofile, of the South African Local Government Association, said: “We can’t keep saying that public participation works when it doesn’t work.”

The Vuwani matter was challenged in the high court and the Constitutional Court, which ruled in the Municipal Demarcation Board’s favour.