The total shutdown of services, which led to children being barred from going to school for more than three months in the troubled area of Vuwani in Limpopo, was a wake-up call for the ruling ANC, according to one of the community leaders, Nsovo Sambo.
There were doubts that local government elections would take place in Vuwani after a number of residents vowed not to allow Independent Electoral Commission officials to operate in the area. Some residents nevertheless cast their votes on Wednesday, although many others from various villages decided to boycott the municipal polls.
Residents have, for months, demanded that the decision by the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) to merge Vuwani with Malamulele and other surrounding villages be reversed. But the authorities repeatedly said such a decision could only be reversed through the courts.
Sambo told The Citizen residents always knew government would come “crawling back”, especially leading up to Wednesday’s local government elections. He said that if many residents had voted, the ANC, which has enjoyed support in Vuwani for several years, would have been “history” by now.
“People decided not to make decisions based on emotions,” said Sambo. “But had they decided that we should all go and vote for the opposition, the ANC would have been history and if that was the case, it was going to be extremely difficult for the ruling party to come back and govern us. “Even during the shutdown, residents did not allow any opposition party to come and interfere in their matters.”
Sambo stressed that there was no turning back in terms of residents’ demands over the demarcation issue.
“Residents are prepared to sacrifice everything that they have,” he added. Sambo also confirmed that the shutdown was officially called off on Wednesday. “We don’t see any reason why we should continue with the shutdown, for now at least. But the pro-Makhado task team will be meeting once all the other people who were arrested recently are released to map the way forward with residents.
“Over the coming days, we will also be seeking a fresh mandate from residents.”