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Vuwani declared disaster area by district municipality

The announcement frees up additional funding that will allow officials to start rebuilding schools.

FILE: The number of schools targeted in ongoing protests in the Vuwani area now stands at 22. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Limpopo government has confirmed Vuwani has been declared a disaster area by the district municipality.

The announcement frees up additional funding that will allow officials to start rebuilding schools and provide mobile classrooms following violent protests in the area.

A complete assessment of the damage to schools and infrastructure is still underway, and learning has come to a standstill in the region.

The Limpopo premier's spokesperson Kenny Mathivha says, "That should be endorsed by the province at any time tomorrow in its provincial cabinet meeting. We should be able to unlock the resources that are there and start to rebuild and provide mobile schools and clinics."

HIGH COST OF REBUILDING NEW SCHOOLS

Meanwhile, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says her department's R22 billion budget has no money to spare to rebuild schools that have been gutted in Vuwani.

Speaking ahead of her budget vote in Parliament, Motshekga says government departments will have to pool resources to fund the project.

Initial estimates came in at R400 million, but the department is now looking at a more conservative figure of R250 million, depending on how many schools are rebuilt.

Motshekga says her department won't be able to carry the cost of rebuilding the schools on its own.

"But money and support has to come from somewhere to rebuild those schools and that's why we're saying as government, we are pulling different resources lying in different departments."

She says it costs at least R30 million to rebuild a new school in line with the current norms and standards.

"One of the things I said when I visited that area is that some schools have to be merged because you can't build R30 million here and R30 million there, so as a coherent community, we do hope we will able to reach an agreement to say that we're not building three [schools] but one."

Pupils at the affected schools have also lost their academic records and valuable time in the classroom.

VHAVENDA KING CALLS FOR AN END TO VIOLENCE, VANDALISM

The Vhavenda king has called on protesting residents of Vuwani to end the violence and vandalism of schools in the area, but added he fully supported their opposition to joining a new municipality based in Malamulele.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga met with the king at the Vhavenda royal house in Dzanani to discuss the protests and continued arson attacks on schools.

WATCH:_ Vhavenda king backs his people._

'THE LAW NEEDS TO BE ENFORCED'

At the weekend, former president Thabo Mbeki has added his voice to the condemnation of the burning of schools in Vuwani, saying the law needs to be enforced.

He believes the attacks form part of a larger complex societal problem.

"It's illegal to go and burn libraries, trains and all of this infrastructure. The law needs to be enforced."

LEADERS WORK TO END VIOLENCE

Meanwhile, the Limpopo provincial government says it's consulted with 13 of the 18 traditional leaders in Vuwani and has received a commitment that violence in the area will come to an end, as demands about a new municipality are being addressed.

An inter-ministerial task team has been set up to dissolve the protest action.

Government also says it has made what it calls a "powerful breakthrough" in negotiations with the majority of traditional leaders in the areas surrounding Vuwani.

Additional reporting by Ziyanda Ngcobo.

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