A COGENT CASE FOR MALAMULELE MUNICIPALITY: IT IS NOT TRIBALISM, IT IS SERVICE DELIVERY.
The violent protests that have defined Malamulele to demand a Municipality independent of the Thulamela Local Municipality have largely been defined and characterised in media circles as tribal cries for a tribal authority. While the consciousness of ordinary people in Malamulele might have tribal undertones, it is entirely incorrect that a demand for a municipality is solely on the basis of tribal dynamics, wherein Xitsonga speaking citizens do not want to be under a Municipality that is predominated by Tshivenda speaking citizens. It is only lazy minds that reduce the genuine demands into a tribal issue because there are real socio economic aspects and features that need attention in Malamulele.
I spent a significant part of my formative years in Malamulele and in all honesty, the only two visible changes that have happened in Malamulele town as a result of public expenditure are 1) a robot on the cross road towards the shopping complex and 2) a boxing gymnasium built by the Provincial government in honour of Cassius Baloyi, who is one of the most successful professional boxers from Malamulele.
There might be other developments, but the condition of the pot holed access roads to Malamulele have not changed since 1994, except recurrent patches which recur more often than they are repaired. Electrification of most villages was completed in 2012, and due to high levels of unemployment and poverty, electrification has not significantly changed the lives of villagers who still depend on firewood for cooking and warmth during winter, expect in household of Gauteng migrant workers. The only place with a sewerage system is Malamulele town, which only accommodates less than 10% of the entire Malamulele population.
The other obvious reality is that virtually all retailers in Malamulele shopping complex are not residents of Malamulele and this is the case with many other rural towns in South Africa. These become victims of the protests whenever the community rises in demand of a local municipality. A perception exists that majority of employees in the Thulamela Local Municipality are those who stay closer to Thulamela Municipality and if not handled properly, this perception arouses some sense that there are certain degrees of tribal preferences. This still needs to be confirmed.
Due to these realities and many others, the 14th of September 2014, the leadership of the Economic Freedom Fighters led by President Julius Malema visited Malamulele community to listen to the grievances and concerns of the people of Malamulele, in order to organically understand the Malamulele question. It emerged during our interaction with the people of Malamulele that the entire area called Malamulele has a population of over 500 000 people, more than 80 villages, 1 Malamulele Town, two police stations, two non-operational gold Mines, and the Punda Maria gate to Kruger National Park happens from Malamulele.
An absolute majority of those who spoke to us decried the lack of services, jobs, and basic necessities which would otherwise be provided by a competent government. We aware of the problems the people of all the people of Malamulele face, particularly the lack of proper roads, lack of sewerage system, inconsistent water supply, and inefficient municipality services. We are also aware of the extent and level of joblessness and unemployment in Malamulele.
Malamulele is an area of 9.57 square kilometres, with more than 80 villages, 14 wards, more than 30 High Schools, and more than 40 Primary schools. Demographically, Malamulele qualifies for a Municipality, as there are many Municipalities in Limpopo and all over South Africa which are far smaller than the size of Malamulele. Mutale Local Municipality is under the same Vhembe District Municipality as Malamulele and its population size is around 80 000, which is six times smaller than Malamulele population. Musina is a local Municipality under Vhembe and has a population size of about 50 000 which is 10 times smaller than Malamulele population.
Our thorough investigation and assessment of the reasons came to the conclusion that tribalism is not the case and reason why the people of Malamulele are demanding a Municipality. There are instances of false consciousness amongst the protestors, but an absolute majority of the people, particularly the youth and elderly woman is that a Municipality is needed so that it can provide job opportunities and deliver services quicker to the people of Malamulele and their more than 80 villages.
Of course the population size is not the only basis upon which a Municipality should be decided, there are many other aspects that need to be given practical attention, particularly the economic viability of a jurisdiction that should be a municipality. As Economic Freedom Fighters, we support the call for a Municipality in Malamulele, made this commitment in our elections manifesto. We do not believe that a Municipality will be a panacea for all the developmental challenges facing Malamulele, hence we support the Municipality on the following grounds and basis:
a) National, Provincial, District and Local Government should make Malamulele economically viable to generate enough resources for the Municipality to self-sustain and create more job opportunities for the people of Malamulele.
b) There are so many Municipalities in South Africa that are predominantly 1 language, and Malamulele will not be the first one to be predominantly 1 language.
c) The people of Malamulele should meet with the business community in Malamulele and begin thorough discussions on how, where and when they should expand economic activities in Malamulele, including the expansion of the current shopping complex and construction of Malls to allow continued economic activities.
d) The people of Malamulele should develop a tourism programme which links to the Punda Maria gate to the Kruger National Park, and extract maximum economic possibilities and potential out of the proximity to Kruger National Park.
e) The two gold Mines should begin operation and employ predominantly local people, help them with skills and other basic necessities needed for the Mines to continue operation.
f) Small scale agriculture, particularly eggs and chicken farming should be expanded through State aided provision of a hatchery, chicken houses, feed, medication, and abattoir to process chicken products.
g) The now dilapidated Shingwedzi College of Education should be re-opened as a Further Education and Training (FET) college which will provide many vocational skills and training capacities to the people of Malamulele.
h) The 14 Wards currently demarcated under Malamulele should re-demarcated into 25 Wards in order to have a viable and vibrant Council.
These activities will make a Malamulele Municipality viable and present the people with possible opportunities for real economic emancipation. Reducing the genuine demand for Malamulele Municipality into a demand for tribal exclusivity is disingenuous and should be dismissed with contempt. The clarion call of the people of Malamulele is that Give them a Municipality, and make it economically viable.
Floyd Shivambu is Deputy President of the EFF: