Fear of rejection makes Zuma skip Vuwani visit

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma reacts during the launch of a social housing project in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma reacts during the launch of a social housing project in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

President Jacob Zuma skipped troubled Vuwani in Limpopo yesterday, fearing people in the area were going to reject him.

Sowetan understands that state security chiefs advised Zuma of the planned rejection and that the crowd would be hostile towards him.

It would have been the second time Zuma had received a hostile reception after he was booed and prevented from speaking in Bloemfontein during a May Day rally last week.

Zuma failed to arrive at Nandoni sports ground in Vuwani, where multitudes had gathered inside a marquee to hear him speak, leaving the violence-wracked town tense.

Zuma had earlier met Venda King Toni Mphephu Ramabulana and other leaders representing various community stakeholders including church and traditional leaders, business, youth and the pro-Makhado lobby group.

His visit was meant to resolve a long-standing boundary dispute that saw Vuwani being incorporated into a newly-created municipality, Lim 345.

Residents are opposed to their area being incorporated into the new municipality to be shared with Malamulele. They want to remain in Makhado, a move seen by some as tribalist.

Zuma had arrived in the area in a chopper. After his visit was cancelled, the angry community refused to allow anyone to address them.

Violence flared up in the area last year which resulted in schools being burnt down.

"We are not going to accept Lim 345. We do not want to be in the same municipality with Malamulele. We want our area to be taken back to the Makhado municipality," Chief Mbangiseni Masia told the cheering crowd.

Meanwhile, the situation is expected to return to normal in Vuwani after the leadership of the Pro-Makhado Task Team agreed to suspend the shutdown of services in the area.

This after they agreed with Ramabulana's proposal that the Vhembe District Municipality should provide services to the people of Vuwani while a solution on the demarcation issue was being sought.

During an impromptu media briefing late yesterday at the Makhado municipality chambers, provincial MEC for cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs Makoma Makhurupetji emphasised that the decision did not mean that the new Lim345 municipality, which was established for the people of Malamulele but also incorporated areas of Vuwani, would not be disestablished.

Chairman of the Pro-Makhado Task Team, Arnold Mulaudzi, said they were happy government was committed to finding a solution to the problem in the area and assured that things would return to normal.

He said schools would resume and businesses, including taxis, would start operating as normal. It was also agreed that the inter-ministerial task team would visit the area before the end of the week to brief residents.

A statement released by the Presidency yesterday said Zuma wishes to meet the community members in the area.

"President Zuma wishes to meet everybody and benefit from the diversity of opinions. He believes that the solution to the Vuwani issue should be inclusive," read the statement.