South Africans amp up violence to get politicians to act on grievances

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South Africans amp up violence to get politicians to act on grievances

TMG Digital | 2017-02-01 09:51:19.0

There were 137 protests recorded last year. Photo file.

Image by: Neo Goba

Protest action in South Africa becomes violent nearly nine out of ten times. This is a sharp increase and a trend that has been on the rise for a dozen years already as frustrations boil over.

“Violent protests increased from representing 75% of all service delivery protests between 2004 and 2016 to 86% in 2016‚” says Karen Heese‚ an economist at Municipal IQ‚ a local government data and intelligence organisation that collects data on service delivery protests staged against municipalities.

On a positive note‚ the company’s latest Municipal Hotspots Monitor shows that service delivery protests in 2016 – when local government elections were held – were lower than any year since 2011.

Heese says the “tailing-off in service delivery protests in 2016‚ especially in the months around and following elections‚ is a positive endorsement of local democracy – suggesting that communities still have confidence in the ballot box as a superior alternative to street protests”.

There were 137 protests recorded last year‚ down from 164 in 2015 and 191 in 2014. A proviso is that the figures do not include protests against councillor candidates nor against demarcation disputes‚ both of which featured significantly in 2016.

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Major service delivery protests, by year. Graph via Municipal IQ Municipal Hotspots Monitor

Municipal IQ MD Kevin Allan notes that in terms of provincial representation‚ Gauteng was the most prominent site of service delivery protests in 2016‚ followed by the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. These trends are consistent with the past few years.

The Municipal IQ team cautions that politicians must step up their efforts to deal with concerns in the communities they serve.

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Service delivery protests by province 2016. Graph via Municipal IQ Municipal Hotspots Monitor

“While 2016 showed a welcome downturn in service delivery protests‚ trends around violence‚ including the torching of schools‚ underpin the importance of War Room and other co-ordinating operations designed to address community complaints before they spiral into a destructive force‚” their report states.

“Equally‚ for municipalities and councillors‚ there is no time for complacency – communities expect delivery in the new term and there remains a profound risk that protests may resume in earnest in 2017.”



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