News / South Africa

Steven Tau
4 minute read
8 May 2017
5:03 am

Protest action likely to continue unabated, say experts

Steven Tau

Experts say what is needed is for those in leadership positions to sit down and listen to the people who elected them.

Protestors burn City of Joburg banners during a protest by former Jozi@work employees outside the offficial opening event of the River Park clinic in Alexandra, 28 February 2017. They are unhappy about the cancellation of the Jozi@work programme. The opening had to be cancelled by the Executive Mayor, Herman Mashaba due to the protest. Picture: Neil McCartney

It is impossible for a society to remain normal amid times of presidential abnormality, according to political analyst Elvis Masoga.

He was responding to what appears to have been an upsurge in service delivery-related protest actions over the last couple of weeks. Some of the areas that have been affected are Vuwani in Limpopo; Lichtenburg in North West; and Lenasia and Finetown, in the south of Johannesburg.

Speaking to The Citizen, Masoga said the protest action is likely to continue unabated. “I am not surprised that there has been an unprecedented upsurge in protest actions across the board. Our society is becoming abnormal as a result of this pervasive presidential abnormality,” Masoga said.

The executive director at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), Nomfundo Mogapi, described the protest actions as a last avenue for residents in a bid to get attention from those in power.

“The relationship between government and citizens does not seem to be improving at all, and ordinary people are at the same time also starting to get politically active.

“The fact that there has been an increase in incidents of disruptions and violence during the protests, is really concerning,” she said. “And the violence that we have been witnessing is also not just limited to [the issue of] lack of service delivery.

“We have seen it in parliament, as well in the recent past,” Mogapi added.

She said the rhetoric that has been used by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, especially when he says the police must fight fire with fire, and the excessive force that has been used by some police officers during some protests, are not assisting in providing solutions to the situation. Mogapi warned of more domestic conflict if communication between government and its citizens was not properly managed.

“What is needed is for those in leadership positions to sit down and listen to what the people who elected them are saying, because the violent protests are a build-up in frustrated communities who believe that they have been ignored.

“Accountability doesn’t only have to be at high levels of government, local ward councilors have an equally important role to play in terms of ensuring that they communicate clearly with their respective communities, as well as fight corruption vigorously wherever it manifests itself,” Mogapi said.

Meanwhile, early this year, the Municipal IQ, a specialised local government data and intelligence organisation which collects data on service delivery protests, said service delivery protests in 2016 were lower than in any year since 2011, but the violence which marred them was on the rise.

According to Municipal IQ, Gauteng had the most protests last year, followed by the provinces Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Areas affected by protest action over the last couple of weeks:

  • Vuwani (Limpopo) – Residents have been protesting over demarcation issues. They have been demanding that the decision taken by the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) to merge Vuwani with Malamulele and other surrounding villages to form a new municipality, be reversed. As was the case during last year’s “total shutdown of services” protest action, schooling in this year’s demonstrations was again disrupted, while businesses have been barred from operating except over weekends.
  • Lichtenburg (North West) – Towards the end of April irate residents went on the rampage over services, turning the main Nelson Mandela Drive linking the area with Coligny into a no-go area. A police Nyala armoured vehicle was set alight.
  • Coligny (North West) – The death of a 16-year-old teenager, Matlhomola Mosweu, allegedly caused by two farmers, sparked violent protests towards the end of last month. At least four houses were set alight. The Coligny Magistrate’s Court is set to deliver judgment today following the bail hearings for the two accused. Residents have made it clear that should the accused get bail more violence will follow.
  • Kliptown (Gauteng) – Disgruntled residents took to the streets, demanding better service delivery in the area where the famous Freedom Charter was adopted in 1955. Metrorail train services were suspended between Vereeniging and Johannesburg for safety reasons because protesters placed rocks and rubble on the tracks. ɳ Lenasia (Gauteng) – Police were under great pressure and forced to fire rubber bullets at protesters who had barricaded the K43 road with burning tyres and rocks. The protest was about people from nearby Orange Farm, who were invading land illegally.
  • Finetown (Gauteng) – Last week residents demanded better service delivery and land. They barricaded the busy Golden Highway with rocks and burning tyres.
  • Irene (Gauteng) – An informal settlement near the St Georges hotel took to the streets last week over land issues.

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