File photo: Vuwani residents burn tyres and block roads in protest against having been rezoned from Makhado. (Joshua Sebola)
There is no smoke billowing around Vuwani this time around, nor any burnt tyres or chants from thousands of angry protesters.
But the residents of the troubled Limpopo town remain in a silent protest of sorts over their unhappiness of their inclusion in the newly-established Collins Chabane municipality after the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) decided in 2015 to excise a number of areas from under Makhado’s control.
As was evident during the run-up to the 2016 municipal elections, community members are once again vowing not to vote in the May 8 polls.
During the local government elections, the community held a soccer tournament on voting day, and stayed away from the polling booths the entire day. Only around 1 600 people of 44 000 registered voters cast their ballots on the day, keeping the ANC in power.
Earlier this year, the MDB confirmed that all municipal boundaries were in place and that they would stay that way until after elections.
Makhado Demarcation Task Team (MDTT) leader Arnold Mulaudzi says there is no point in voting.
“We urge people not to go and vote, not that we will force them to stay away because it will be illegal to do so, but we hope that they will keep the best interest of the community in mind on the day,” said Muladudzi.
One woman who wanted to remain anonymous told News24 that she did not see the need to vote, as the plight of the mostly poor residents have not been taken seriously by politicians.
“I won’t vote, what has government done for me and my family? I even have to buy water,” she asked in Tshivenda.
Another resident said she was upset over how the demarcation process was handled.
“I have never been given a reason to vote, I loved the ANC, but they have left me poor and even worse, forcing us to go to Malamulele (Collins Chabane municipality) without consulting us.”
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In January, Corporative Governance Minister Zweli Mkhize commended developments in Vuwani during a voter registration weekend.
Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) centres in the area were guarded by contingents of police officers, after residents threatened to disrupt the registration process.
Those voters who registered were able to do so unhindered.
In the same month, Mhkhize and Limpopo Cooperative Governance, Traditional Affairs and Human Settlements MEC Jerry Ndou met the MDTT and local chiefs to discuss their concerns.
At the time, Mulaudzi said the task team was looking for firm commitments from government.
“We need commitment from the government that it will be the one that will lead the process to reincorporate our area back into Makhado when the demarcation window period opens.
“The minister promised that he will go back to the inter-ministerial committee to report and he will report back to us. He did not give a time frame,” Mulaudzi said in January.
It appears one of the reasons developments have been slow has been due to a change of leadership in government.
Mulaudzi says the peace deal reached during a visit by former president Jacob Zuma in May 2017 was being ignored by provincial authorities for political reasons.
The deal included the Vhembe District Municipality taking over the delivery of services while the municipal boundary dispute was being resolved.
Earlier this month, ANC Vhembe regional secretary Anderson Mudunungu said the MDTT and its supporters were “fooling themselves”, City Press reported.
“If they don’t want to vote, who is going to fix their issues?” remarked Mudunungu.
It is expected that on election day, a heavy police presence will be maintained in the area.
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