Seventeen schools were burnt down in the Vuwani and Levubu areas of the Vhembe District in the Limpopo Province as residents were protesting against the Demarcation Board’s decision to incorporate into a new municipality.
On 2 September 2013, citizens of a small town of Malamulele under the Thulamela local municipality went on a rampage after a demarcation meeting and torched municipal property because they were demanding their separate local municipality.
In January 2013 the residents of Zamdela in Metsimaholo Municipality in the Free State embarked on a violent protest to reject the merger with the neighbouring municipality. Some time ago, Khutsong residents took to the streets to protest against the transfer of Merafong municipality from Gauteng to North West.
With regard to the Zamdela community protest, the then Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Richard Baloyi intervened and appointed a task team to investigate the viability of the merger. This was protested by the Demarcation Board on the basis that the minister was interfering with their mandate.
In some instances people took to the courts to fight their objections to the decisions of the Demarcation Board. Traditional leaders also took the Demarcation Board to court because they believed that the new boundaries were undermining their authority.
The whole demarcation process debacle raised the question above: who has the final say? To whom is the Demarcation Board accountable and what is the recourse for the citizens, other than the financially inaccessible judicial system.
Sometimes one is justified to ask whether the Demarcation Board is indeed discharging its mandate as per the Local Government: Municipal Demarcation Act No. 27 of 1998, and without fear, favour and prejudice.
In many instances, it is difficult to establish this fact. Instead, it looks like the Demarcation Board is an authority to itself, and only serves the whims of those in Luthuli House. Their determination of the municipal boundaries is sometimes questionable and seems not to be determined as per the provisions of the relevant act, and the interest of the citizens; instead, it looks like they are designed to serve the desires of Luthuli House in order to tilt the balance of force in favour of the ruling party in a particular municipality.
In this regard, the Demarcation Board reduces itself into a subcommittee of the Luthuli bosses. This creates serious tribal and ethnic chaos for communities and undermines the authority of the traditional leaders.
In some instances, a piece of land belonging to a particular traditional leader will be transferred to another, without any consultation and/or consent from the affected traditional authorities. Ultimately they affect service delivery severely.
The country must at all times avoid falling into the trap of violent protests when they want their voice to be heard. The destruction of public amenities and private properties must be stopped, as it is a barbaric, illegal and backward method of fighting for one to be listened to.
The determination of the municipal boundaries can no longer be a private responsibility of the Demarcation Board. We need direct participation of the communities, the government, traditional authorities, religious groups and all other organs of civil society. While the Independence of the Demarcation Board is appreciated, it should be clear as to who put the final stamp on the demarcation decision, the board or the citizens? A genuine participation of the people in their totality is indeed a lengthy and necessary process and must be done to avoid catastrophic situations such as the ones I have referred to above.
Let the Communities be Put First. DM
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