Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Monday, September 20, 2004

More protests against lack of service delivery

Sapa reports today about more protests against lack of service delivery, this time in the Eastern Free State. Apparently about 500 residents of Zamani in Memel are blocking the access road to the township. Old car wrecks and dustbins were being used to build barricades and school children were among those protesting. This follows similar protests last week in the same municipality of Phumelela, where residents of Ezenzeleni township in Warden protested against the lack of service delivery in their municipality.

It seems as if protests against lack of service delivery are becoming a monthly occurence in South Africa, and I'm wondering if this could be the start of a potentially serious trend. The protests seemed to have begun after this years April elections, the first was a protest against the housing situation in Diepsloot just outside of Johannesburg, and that was sometime in July. Then towards the end of August there were protests in Harrismith during which one of the activists was killed after being wounded by police. And now these protests in the Free State.

It seems as if people are holding the ANC to their election promises, and that there is a lot of frustration and growing impatience on the ground at the lack of delivery. On the one hand, the protests are bad for stability, law and order etc, and may give SA bad press if picked up by the overseas media - BUT - I think they are a good thing in the sense that it will put pressure on the ANC to deliver. Ironically, even though people are protesting against the government for failing to meet their promises, I still don't see them turning away from the ruling party.

At the time of the Harrismith protests, Irin reported this comment from Paul Graham, executive director of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa: "Just because the ANC got 70 percent of the vote [during the April general election] does not mean people are not critical of their performance. I think the protest ... is just a concrete manifestation of the feelings of many communities: that things are not moving as fast as they could," said Graham. "Voting for people just increases the expectation that they will deliver."

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