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LOOK: Chieftaincy dispute in minerals-rich KZN community flares up again, schools closed after threats

The threatening note which forced the schools in the area to close for over a week. Picture: Supplied

The threatening note which forced the schools in the area to close for over a week. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 21, 2022

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Durban – The decades-long chieftaincy dispute of the Mbuyazi clan in Richards Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal which nearly saw Rio Tinto-owned mining giant, Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) pulling out of the area, has flared up again.

This time around, the dispute has affected schooling after teachers and learners were told to shut them down or face the consequences.

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As a result of the new dispute, two schools, Ntongande High School and Mthayindeni Technical School have not operated in more than a week.

The instruction to have the schools closed came in the form of a note which was stuck on the school’s gates, forcing teachers and learners to take precautionary measures.

“Opening of schools at this situation will result in a school being burnt (sic).

“Teachers and students are requested to comply to the struggle and they have to avoid to expose themselves on the line of fire,” reads part of the note that led to the schools being closed.

The threatening note which forced the schools in the area to close for over a week. Picture: Supplied

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As a result of the school’s closures, more than 2 000 learners and a sizeable number of teachers from the greater kwaMbonambi area, have not been able to go to school.

It is alleged that the notes to the schools came from the Mbuyazi clan’s faction which is opposed to the reign of Mkhanyiseni Mbuyazi who was announced as the next traditional ruler of the Mbuyazi clan in March.

His announcement came after several intensive efforts to resolve the dispute by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala, who wanted the matter to be finalised so that there would be stability in the area.

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“They threatened to shoot and kill teachers and principals who opened the schools.

“The fight is over the Richards Bay minerals funds (mining royalties) given to the community on a yearly basis,” said a resident of the area who alerted IOL of the challenge and asked not to be named.

The spokesperson of the Department of Basic Education in KwaZulu-Natal, Kwazi Mthethwa, confirmed that the schools have been closed and said the action was illegal.

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“Communities are key education stakeholders, equally learners are protected by the country’s Constitution to be provided with an education.

“This unauthorised blocking or locking of schools is illegal and will not be tolerated.

“We urge communities to engage through relevant channels whenever they are aggrieved rather than to jeopardise the future of their own kids by shutting down schools,” Mthethwa said.

To show their anger, they blocked the R66 that connects northern KwaZulu-Natal towns such as Gingindlovu, Eshowe, Nkandla, Melmoth, Ulundi, Nongoma, Vryheid and Pongola.

Blocking the road with burning tyres and logs, the protesters demanded that Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka issue a certificate of recognition of Mxolisi as the next inkosi.

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