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Kimberley - “There is no solution so far,” is the verdict of the Acting Premier, Grizelda Cjiekella, referring to the angry protests in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District, that show no signs of subsiding, as it threatens to plunge the Northern Cape deeper into crisis.
Despite a high-level government delegation, including intelligence forces that were established to uncover the cause of the illegal protests, the unrest is escalating.
Protests that first erupted in Olifantshoek in May spread to the Joe Morolong Municipality and has now extended to Kuruman.
Protesters’ grievances include demands for access roads and the resignation of the mayor of the Gamagara Municipality.
However, the premier and the provincial cabinet, during a media briefing yesterday, were convinced that the illegal protests had nothing to do with the lack of service delivery.
Cjiekella indicated that the protesters who were destroying government property and businesses consisted of the same group of people who accused government of non-delivery.
“The grievances are very complex in nature and that is why no solution has been reached thus far.”
Cjiekella added that the road workers were unable to work because they were being intimidated.
“The people want roads but all attempts at road construction are being frustrated. Our officials cannot enter the villages at night. We are afraid to send them in after dark because that is where you will die. It is an unfortunate situation.”
She said that an assessment still needed to be made on the value of the damages caused to State property.
“There is no budget or insurance available to repair the broken buildings.”
Government officials related how the community refused to speak to them and have been prevented from entering the troubled villages where pockets of violence have erupted since May.
Cjiekella said that they were unable to reopen schools until the high levels of intimidation had stopped. “Parents said learners want to return to classes but they are too scared.”
She added that taxi operators were also threatened that their vehicles would be set alight if they transported the Grade 12 learners out of the area so that they could prepare for their preliminary and final exams.
“It took us about two weeks to arrange for them to be relocated to Barkly West.”
Cjiekella added that one of the ringleaders approached, was unable to explain to the task team appointed to assess the situation why they were gambling with the future of learners. “We will not stand back and allow a few disgruntled and rogue elements to run the region into the ground.”
Cjiekella said 2 583 learners at two primary and one high school in Olifantshoek were effected.
“High levels of intimidation made it difficult for the department to intervene successfully in some areas. This led to learners from all three schools in Olifantshoek not writing June examinations.
“Schools around Cassel, Bothitong, Loopeng, Tsineng and Laxey were also disrupted although this varied from schools and villages.
“In the Joe Morolong municipal area some of the schools wrote some of the papers and some wrote back-up papers. After reopening of schools for this term, there was normal schooling until disruptions started again in July.”
She pointed out that the John Taolo Gaetsewe District had over the past years received preferential treatment in terms of service delivery.
“These protests are taking place under the guise of service delivery protests. Considering the interventions of various political and administrative teams who met with the leadership and communities in the protest-hit areas to restore calm, it baffles the mind that no amicable solution has yet been reached.”
Cjiekella highlighted the political undertones of the protests.
“We will expose the culprits who are the instigators of this lawlessness. Our appeal to the communities in the affected areas is not to allow yourselves and the future of your children to be jeopardised by people who claim to have your wellbeing at heart.
“No person can have an honest intention or interest in your life by destroying children’s right to enjoy an education.”
She acknowledged the right of the community to air their grievances and to protest but said that this should be done responsibly.
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