The Congress of South African Trade Unions fully backs community demands for better services, but is opposed to the closure of schools as a tactic in community protests.
This has happened most recently in Malamulele, Limpopo, where the local community has embarked in a demand for the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) to allow the town to become a separate municipality and no longer part of the Thulamela municipality, a demand the MDB has now rejected.
Residents have blamed the MDB for not heeding their call for Malamulele and some surrounding areas, especially the Xitsonga-speaking ones, to have a separate municipality. They argue they are not receiving services from the Thulamela municipality, based 30km away, which they allege has been channelling services to Tshivenda-speaking areas.
The protesters have kept children from school since the beginning of this school year, warned that schools will be disrupted until their demands are met, that this is a ldquonew June 16rdquo, and that the school children are leading this struggle.
They have brought Malamulele to a standstill. As well as closing schools they are reported to be monitoring roads to ensure no business takes place and forcing shops in the local mall to shut down, setting fire to shops and looting, causing millions of rands in damage.
Last year the community of Glen Red village, outside Kuruman in the Northern Cape, used the same tactic in support of their demand for 130 km of roads into the village to be tarred. They kept their children away from school for more than three months, demanding ldquono tarred road, no schoolrdquo.
COSATU agrees that many poor communities have absolutely justified grievances and demands, and will do everything it can to assist them to get better services and facilities, particularly to build their local economies and to create more jobs.
We cannot however condone the tactic of keeping children out of school. This will do nothing to aance the cause for which they are battling but will seriously disrupt the learners’ education. Rather communities should make the improvement of local schools and better facilities for education one of their central demands for better service delivery.
The federation is urging its provincial and local leadership to visit the areas affected and assist the communities in their campaigns to improve the lives of the people.
COSATU is also concerned that the demarcation of municipalities based on language will reinforce the apartheid divisions and we appealing to all communities to focus their demands on the need to improve service instead of muddling this with a dose of tribalism.
The answer to service delivery issues does not necessarily lie in demarcations. The issue that they should be struggling about is sustainable municipalities, the need for support of all, but in particular rural, municipalities by national government, an end to bureaucratic structures that drain resources so needed by the local government.
This reinforces COSATU’s the demand for the abolition of the provinces.
Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
Source : Congress of South African Trade Unions