Kopela residents regret last year’s violent protest actions...

Kopela: Residents of Kopela village near Delareyville in the North West Province’s Tswaing Local Municipality say their violent actions which resulted in the burning of three public schools and a clinic during their September 2015 service delivery protest, are highly regretted.

Speaking yesterday, Friday 02 December, at a community meeting organised by the Reconciliation, Healing and Renewal Directorate in the Office of the Premier, residents said their violent actions have terribly affected schooling and access to especially health care services, saying residents are now forced to walk long distances to get help from neighbouring villages.

The meeting which was aimed at creating a platform for residents to speak out about the concerns which led to that violent protest, as they seek true reconciliation, was attended by hundreds of residents, amongst them, the youth, elders, traditional leadership, religious leaders, government officials and the Mayor of Tswaing Local Municipality. The meeting was held at Kopela community hall.

Gadifele Malebelela, one of the organisers of last year’s protest, said while their concerns are not yet resolved, they all agree that violence was not necessary and that it could have been avoided. “While we were complaining about amongst others our bad roads and lack of water in our village, it now hurts us more to see some of the community members defaulting on their treatment, especially the pensioners, because our clinic was destroyed during that protest. We have learned from our own mistakes, we sincerely regret our actions and request government to please forgive us”, said the sobbing Malebelela.

She also advised residents of the province against the destruction of public properties, saying they have learned as Kopela residents that such actions have undesirable and in some cases, unreturnable consequences.

Echoing Malebelela’s statement, Goitsemodimo Mangoejane, also one of the protest organisers said, “We have realised and acknowledge that what we did has actually taken us many steps backwards, as government is now expected to spend more money to rebuild the torched classrooms and renovate the destroyed clinic; the money of which could have been used on other needed services”.

The Mayor of Tswaing Local Municipality, Cllr Dimakatso Malwane said road infrastructure projects are already underway as the municipality is working on the village’s internal roads. Premier Supra Mahumapelo has also recently turned the first sod for the upgrading of a 104km road between Kopela, Direetsane, Witpan, Ganalaagte and Deelpan villages.

“From the interaction with the community, we can see that they regretted their action, and that they want to unite and pull together. We are aware that there are also unemployment challenges among the youth, and we have as the municipality initiated discussions with them to create co-operatives, which will have long term impact in their lives as opposed to the temporary employment opportunities they get as part of the current infrastructure projects” said Cllr Malwane.

“We initiated this dialogue as part of our responsibility to bring about reconciliation, healing and renewal among the community and the leadership. We have held a series of engagements with the affected parties following the Premier’s visit to this village in October last year, and we are pleased that there is stability in the village”, explained Mr Tebogo Ramashilabele, the Director for Reconciliation, Healing and Renewal Directorate in the Office of the Premier.

Welcoming the reconciliation, healing and renewal dialogues initiated by Office of the Premier, Kgosi Noto Andrew Moshoette of Barolong Boora-Tlou Boo-Seitshiro in Kopela village, commended the community for their frankness and willingness to seek reconciliation. Kgosi Moshoette also pledged his support and commitment towards the total restoration of peace and unity in the village.

The Reconciliation, Healing and Renewal programme is one of the five concretes the fifth administration has resolved to promote among the people of the North West Province, this in its effort to achieve the goal of rebranding, repositioning and renewing the province.

Moreover, this concrete seeks to advance some of the government’s priority outcomes of social protection, a long and healthy life for all, nation building and social cohesion, as expressed in the National Development Plan.