South Africa is experiencing a spike in service delivery riots, and the cause has to do with the looming election. The last several days saw riots break out in Cape Town, Gauteng, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal.
“There is actually an increase in these violent protests each time there is an election,” says Dr Sethulego Matebesi, a researcher at the University of the Free State.
“One of the reasons for this is that you have a heightened number of politicians and these leaders are saying things to stir up emotions.”
But at the core of these protests are services that haven’t been delivered and Matebesi believes this will be just a continuing vicious cycle if these issues are not addressed.
A study conducted by the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Change between 2005 and 2017 defined a “community protest” as a protest in which collective demands were raised by a geographically defined and identified community that frames its demands in support or defence of that community.
The research was based on an assessment of media reports as well as available police data.
According to the research, 14200 community protests took place between 2005 and 2017 in Gauteng and the Western Cape.
“There will always be suspicions about whether protests are deliberately instigated in the run-up to the vote, and it’s not inconceivable that nefarious elements in some political parties may be willing to stir up violent dissent and perhaps even disrupt the process, given the consequences in terms of positions, influence, patronage, jobs and so on.
“Without hard evidence this is merely speculation,” says Michael Morris, head of media at the Institute of Race Relations.
“We have tracked a steady rise in violent protests over the past few years which coincide with South Africa’s declining economic performance,” he added.
Matebesi said the cycle of protests was caused in part by the ruling party dealing with the leaders of riots by offering them jobs.
“I found ample evidence that core leaders of protests are offered jobs in the municipality,” he says.
“Some of these leaders told me that a hungry stomach as no allegiances.”
Another problem, according to Matebesi, is that the cause of the protests are not resolved and a new leader emerges and the cycle continues.
In a study, Matebesi found that protests were supported by predominantly unemployed, young residents.
“However, judging by election results immediately after protests, the study revealed that the ANC is not losing votes over such actions,” he said.
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Source: The Saturday Star
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