Vuwani - Villagers in Vuwani, Limpopo, have taken to spending sleepless nights trying to protect their schools from rampaging mobs.

This comes as the number of schools torched or damaged rose to 23.

Community member Cassius Ngobeni said: “We heard that people are moving in the evening, burning schools. They tried to burn (it) with a petrol bomb, but failed.”

Read: Future bleak for Vuwani pupils after 17 schools torched

Ngobeni is part of a group of Bungeni residents who have resolved to sleep at the community’s school gates because they want to protect their schools.

The destruction has been slammed by everyone from President Jacob Zuma to political parties and advocacy groups.

Many villagers have formed patrol groups in a bid to bar protesters from entering the area. A group of disgruntled Vuwani residents and other people from neighbouring areas moved from one village to another on Thursday, burning down government schools and properties.

The violence comes after Vuwani residents lost a high court bid to have their area reinstated under the Makhado Municipality last Friday.

On Sunday, a meeting was convened by community leaders, who called on residents to refrain from violence in the wake of the court judgment. Residents, however, defied their leadership’s plea for calm and have stated they will continue to fight the government’s plan to include them under the Malamulele Municipality.

The African National Congress has since moved into the area and a ministerial team has been tasked with intervening in a bid to stop the violence.

The party has called for calm.

“With South Africa being a constitutional democracy, where the rule of law reigns supreme, we would encourage those who are not satisfied with the ruling to exercise their right to explore legal avenues of recourse,” said ANC provincial secretary Nocks Seabi.

ANA