Govt: Organised crime may be behind torching of Limpopo schools

State Security Minister David Mahlobo says seven people have been arrested so far.

The Vhudzani secondary school is one the many schools which have been touched by the Vuwani community. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN.

LIMPOPO - Government says it doesn't believe people torching schools in the Vuwani area in Limpopo are part of a protest over demarcation and instead suspect organised crime syndicates are behind the arson attacks.

State Security Minister David Mahlobo says the number of schools torched since Monday has now risen to at least 19.

Yesterday, he visited villages which have been hit by protests and inspected the damage to the schools and other property.

He was joined by Cooperative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen and Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu.

Residents in the area have been protesting over their inclusion in a new Malamulele municipality and a failed high court bid to prevent assimilation.

Sotyu says the torching of 19 schools is unprecedented.

"There's never in the history of this country that within such a short space of time 19 schools can be burned down to the ashes, unless it is an organised crime."

Mahlobo says they have identified instigators of the violence and arson attacks and seven people have been arrested.

"And we're expecting further arrests. We've made the decision when we spoke with the generals that we'll bring in those specialised units, the Hawks to strengthen the work that is happening on the ground."

Vuwani Vhudzani secondary school is 1 of 17 schools which have been touched by angry community members.

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The security cluster says the vast terrain and poor roads in this area have made it difficult for police to respond to the violence.

The select committee on education and recreation in the National Council of Provinces says it is unfortunate that young people are being denied their right to basic education.

Chairperson Lungelwa Zwane says her committee's role includes conducting oversight for the education department's bud.

"A huge capital outlay has been injected to develop infrastructure including the building of classrooms in all the provinces in the republic. Now burning structures that are community assets or national assets is actually taking the Education Department backward."

The organsiation's Kate Paterson said, "Other buildings need to be found where they can be taught. Other equipment needs to be found and used as soon as possible and they need obviously try to get temporary buildings in place and mobile classrooms where they can."

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma has condemned the destruction.

The president said there was no grievance that could justify the destruction of property, especially schools, which are meant to help the next generation defeat poverty, inequality and unemployment.