2017’s chain of angry protests
The past year was one of burning tyres, torched buses and razed buildings in which communities asked to be reckoned.
A string of service delivery protests have plagued Tshwane and Gauteng this year, with the province leading in the tally of protests – accounting for more than one out of every three protests in the country in 2017.
According to Municipal IQ, a local government data and intelligence organisation, Gauteng protests topped those of other provinces by 35%, with a recorded 152 major protests between 2004 and 2017.
Municipal IQ economist Karen Heese said: “A record peak in the second quarter of 2017 may mean that 2017 will eclipse other years’ records for service delivery protests, although a downward trend since May could keep it under 2014’s current record [of 191 protests]. “As of the end of September, 2017 accounts for 11% of service delivery protests recorded since 2004.”
In June, residents of Mahube Valley in Mamelodi, Pretoria, traded petrol bombs with residents of an adjacent informal settlement – the feud allegedly sparked by an illegal electricity connection from the informal settlement that left bond-paying residents with no power for days.
The violence left several homes torched, while rows of shacks were completely burnt to the ground.
The unrest prompted Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga to propose building a barricade between the two communities to ensure peace and safety, but residents further complained the barricade would block the main road leading to shopping centres and public transport.
The R55 near Laudium has been marred by burning tyres and blockages due to unhappy Olievenhoutbosch and Itireleng residents who turn to the main road when protesting for better services.
In March and May this year, the R55 was closed to traffic. According to Itireleng residents, they were “tired of empty promises” as they felt their ward councillor failed to provide basic services such as toilets, decent roads and electricity.
In Olievenhoutbosch, a motorist attempting to flee violence on the R55, drove into a ditch – injuring himself and damaging his car – when residents barricaded the road with stones and burning tyres.
The angry group were demanding houses and development in the area, and were disgruntled by sudden electricity cuts.
In July, thousands of residents from Gomorrah informal settlement in Hercules, Pretoria left a thick mist of teargas hovering over the area when police tried to disperse a violent crowd.
The residents were demanding answers from the Gauteng MEC for corporate governance and traditional affairs, Paul Mashatile, on development of the area and better services. Their plea followed that of many others in the capital.
A similar protest took place days before in neighbouring township Atteridgeville, where two buses were torched.
Gomorrah residents torched two bakkies, a minibus taxi, a truck and a nearby horticulture centre used by the Tshwane University of Technology.
“Violent protest activity remains a concern for many South African communities, given its adverse impact on schooling, work opportunities and community safety,” Heese said.
“It is of further concern that policing of protests appears to add another layer of violence, further destabilising the already vulnerable relationship between communities and authority figures,” Heese said.