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SAPS defend lack of convictions from Vuwani protests

SAPS Major-General Michael Mohlala blamed intimidation for the lack of a single prosecution over the past two years despite 132 cases being opened and nearly 80 arrests.

FILE: Police patrolling the area in Vuwani. Picture: Pelane Phakgadi/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Police have defended their failure to secure any convictions arising from violent protests and the burning of 29 schools in Vuwani in Limpopo, saying that intimidation of witnesses is a major problem.

Senior South African Police Service (SAPS) officials were briefing Parliament’s Basic Education Portfolio Committee on the situation in the troubled area where a shutdown of all services has been suspended for two weeks, allowing matric pupils to write their trial exams.

The lifting of the shutdown is only until next week Tuesday and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is hoping that matric exams will be able to go ahead once they start on 24 October.

Of more than 26,000 Vuwani learners affected, around 1,600 are in grade 12 and are now hastily writing their trial exams before matric finals get underway later this month.

Motshekga says that the violent protests stem from the municipal boundaries that were redrawn in July 2015.

“It’s a demarcation issue and without playing victim, we’re caught in the crossfire. Some of the things that happen are completely out of our control.”

SAPS Major-General Michael Mohlala blamed intimidation for the lack of a single prosecution over the past two years despite 132 cases being opened and nearly 80 arrests.

“You must have people to testify. The people who must testify should come from the same community. So, with this intimidation, it is very difficult for the police and the JCPS cluster to have a successful prosecution.”

Police have identified the disruption of exams as just one risk if there’s no resolution to the broader demarcation dispute.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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