Johannesburg - Limpopo premier Stan Mathabatha has blamed the violent protests that erupted in the Thulamela local municipality this week on tribalism.
A Sapa correspondent reported that the Malamulele community went on the rampage on Monday, damaging property including a grader, truck, six cars, two public store rooms, 37 houses, and four offices belonging to the public works department.
The protesters demanded their own municipality, separate from the Thulamela municipality.
“We are calling for the community of Malamulele to refrain from using tribalism elements in their demand,” said Mathabatha's spokesman Kenny Mathivha.
Mathivha acknowledged that the Malamulele people had been demanding their own municipality for many years.
He said it was not the competency of the provincial government to demarcate, but that of the Demarcation Board.
“The Demarcation Board is in the process of resolving their problems and they will know the answer very soon.
“South Africa is not a federal government, but a constitutional democracy. We can't see people damaging the infrastructure in 20
years of democracy. Yes, they should voice their concerns, but not become violent,” he said.
The Thulamela local municipality is divided into two predominant groups, mainly Venda and Tsonga-speaking.
The differences in language are also known to arise within the municipal council.
Limpopo police spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the violent protest involved about 15,000 community members.
“More than 15,000 people went on a rampage on Monday morning, damaging and looting shops.
“Four of their shopping complexes were damaged and looted completely; they damaged 37 houses, burnt a grader, a truck, and lit six cars.
“We also managed to stop them from burning the local hospital, and we had to use force... On Monday they kept us fully busy for the whole day and we had to use rubber bullets to stop them,” he said.
Mulaudzi said 51 people were arrested and charged with public violence. They were expected to appear in court on Wednesday.
The situation was “calm” on Tuesday but police were monitoring. - Sapa