The Missing Chapter

Last updated on: August 14, 2015 by Bantsi Makhandeni

The Death of Gazankulu

The years 1990 - 1993 were a period of transition, where the National Party (led by Frederik Willem de Klerk) and the ANC (led by Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela) shared power. In 1994, the Gazankulu and all homeland governments were dissolved. That meant the map of South Africa needed to be redrawn. The homeland or bantustan system was created based on language. Except in one case where the Xhosa had two homelands, every other indigenous South African language was assigned a homeland. So in 1994 the first-ever democratically-elected president in South Africa was ushered in.

The Birth of Thulamela

Between 1994 and 1999, Malamulele was part of the Levubu-Shingwedzi Transitional Local Municipality. This municipality incorporated all areas east of Ribvubye, which included some areas led by Tshivenda-speaking chiefs. Malamulele is Xitsonga-speaking. Between 1999 and 2001, the Levubu-Shingwedzi Transitional Local Municipality was joined with the Thohoyandou Transitional Local Municipality. Thohoyandou used to be the capital of the Venda homeland, predominantly west of Ribvubye.

Many chiefs, coucillors, and residents from Malamulele were against this move. The people of Malamulele had been used to Malamulele Town being the center of their administration since the 1970's, that's around 30 years. Now all that was about to change. Thohoyandou was more developed than Malamulele owing to having been the capital of Venda, but Malamulele was not that worse off. Malamulele could handle almost all economic activities.

However, the ANC government with their Municipal Demarcation Board, were more concerned about ending the apparent tribalism caused by the Apartheid government. Merging communities that spoke different languages was part of the process of healing and erasing Apartheid's legacy in the new South Africa. And Malamulele was their guinea pig.

Malamulele Revolts

From the day when Malamulele became administered in Thohoyandou, to the day when the people of Malamulele took to the streets, a lot of politics happened. In 2010, Malamulele started making the news for all the wrong reasons: barricading roads, keeping kids out of school, setting government property alight, burning 4 to 5 schools. The whole of South Africa weighed in reprimanding the people of Malamulele online and in public conversations. The national ANC government and the Presidency made public statements about Malamulele not being viable and the protests being based on tribal hatred. The Thulamela local municipality made claims about having provided equal services to Thohoyandou and Malamulele. The Municipal Demarcation Board echoed Thulamela and the ANC, even releasing a feasibility report criticised of being too hasty. The Malamulele Task Team, the successor of Malamulele SANCO which had failed at the same task, was relentless. More news.

Malamulele was compared to other areas in the country going through service delivery protests, such as Bekkersdal and Khutsong. President Jacob Zuma said the people of Malamulele needed prayers. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi went to listen to the people's grievances and promised to come back but never did. His successor Pravin Gordhan lamented not having influence over Chapter 9 institutions such as the MDB. This at a time when the ANC was undermining the Public Protector's office led by Thuli Madonsela. The people of Malamulele were baying for Malamulele-born Collins Chabane's blood, his family had to flee from Xikundu. The DA, which had won 6% of the vote in Malamulele in the previous local government elections, similar to the EFF, weighed in. The EFF "government-in-waiting" committed to declaring Malamulele a municipality. Even more news.

Malamulele and Vuwani

In a 360° about-turn, the MDB wants to create a municipality in Malamulele, incorporating a smaller area called Vuwani. The ANC wants to name it the Collins Chabane Municipality in honour of the fallen freedom fighter. Chief Mbangiseni Masia says none of the Venda chiefs in Malamulele and Vuwani wants any part of this new municipality. More protests. More politics.