Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Monday said she “welcomed the resumption of schooling” in Vuwani, which had been disrupted by protracted protests over disputed municipality demarcation plans in that area.
“We value the education of our children and we hope that this kind of disruption will not happen again. Our main aim right now is to ensure that our learners catch up with their work through interventions that will be rolled out at all schools,” Motshekga said in a statement.
On Sunday President Jacob Zuma met with Vha Venda King Toni Mphephu to try to resolve the concerns raised by community members that led to the protests.
However, violence broke out after Zuma left the area without addressing community members who had been waiting for him to do so. Angry residents damaged six vehicles with rocks and overturned mobile toilets at the Nandoni sport field.
Police said at least four people had been arrested in connection with the violence.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des Van Rooyen, along with Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, State Security Minister David Mahlobo, Minister of Public Service and Administration Faith Muthambi and MP Thoko Didiza had accompanied Zuma to Vuwani.
Van Rooyen’s efforts to address residents were drowned out by chants of “Zuma, Zuma”.
On Sunday the Presidency said Zuma left without addressing the community because an assessment showed those gathered were not representative of both sides of the demarcation divide.
“After assessing the situation today, a conclusion was reached that the community meeting was not representative of the whole community affected by the establishment of the new municipality. It was mostly composed by those who oppose the new municipality”.
It was agreed that the Vhembe district municipality should provide services to Vuwani while a solution on the demarcation issue was being sought.
Vuwani, situated outside Thohoyandou, was shut down for months last year with incidents of sporadic violence as residents protested against incorporation into a new municipality by the demarcation board. The defiant residents wanted Vuwani to remain in Makhado municipality.
Last year, as many as 29 schools were either torched or vandalised in Vuwani during demarcation protests.
On Monday the department of basic education said the Vuwani shutdown affected 76 schools involving 27 697 learners with 1 702 of them in grade 12.
The department said an assessment of the days that had been lost to the protest was conducted and would inform them of what needed to be done to help the learners catch up.
“The department will continue to monitor the situation in Vuwani in order to put in place appropriate support measures.”