Heavyweights fail to calm restive Khutsong

By Poloko Tau

High-powered officials have failed to restore peace in Khutsong, raising fears that elections may not be possible in the trouble-torn township.

On Wednesday, for the third day running, pupils from three high schools boycotted classes. Some set tyres alight and hung around while police patrolled the streets in armoured vehicles.

On Wednesday night the township resembled a dumping ground with streets barricaded with rubbish.

Two education MECs, Angie Motshekga of Gauteng, and Johannes Tselapedi of North West, tried in vain to meet with teachers at one of the schools.

The annoyed teachers walked out after learning that Tselapadi was there.

Some told The Star he had no jurisdiction in the area.

"We will not listen to any of these people. We only knew that Motshekga was coming, not anyone from the North West," said Siza Temane.

Another teacher, who refused to be named, said most of the teachers and Khutsong residents were against the move to the North West.

"We don't want that province and its administration. To bring Tselapedi here means we're already under his administration. We do not accept that," she said.

In a hastily arranged interview, Tselapadi said the Gauteng government was in the process of handing authority to North West.

"I was here with my colleague to try to iron things out with teachers so that children could go back to classes. Now I will only be able to comment once everything is complete at the end of March," he said.

An official from Motshekga's office, Thami Mali, said another meeting had been scheduled.

"Only MEC Motshekga will address the teachers at the meeting we will have hold next week."

ANC chairperson and Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota was locked in talks with the party's alliance partners in the area.

He refused to divulge the outcome of the meeting, but was adamant that municipal elections would take place in Khutsong on Wednesday.

Lekota said: "There's no question on this one. Khutsong is part of the country and the elections will be happening in the whole country. Our government has surmounted worse situations in the past.

"We managed to get things back to normal in KwaZulu Natal and I assure you that things will be okay here. I will make sure of that because Ive been deployed to help here."

Lekota said the media had "pretended" there was a national crisis in Khutsong.

"People are only anxious about whether the elections will take place. I'll be here until the last ballot is counted."

Lekota said the government's decision was not going to change.

"People need to be taught how to approach decisions taken democratically. Parliament can never make law that will please anyone," he said.

Meanwhile, the stand-off between Khutsong and Zondefontein informal settlement residents continues. Zondefontein residents say they will vote next week.

Khutsong residents have accused them of being sell-outs.

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