By Allen Tshautshau
There have been a staggering number of public service delivery protests in South Africa. This has been one the most talked about subjects within the political circles, and various forms of media. Consequently, much has been said on how the municipalities have failed to meet their service delivery obligations to ordinary South Africans, particularly the poor. However, this article is not a repetition of the already existing facts and causes of public service protests, but attempts to question whether the lack of service delivery substantiate the vandalism of both private and public properties. Well, affected parties will argue that one can only understand the gravity of the lack of service delivery when you are exposed to mediocre housing, improper sanitation, unbearable pollution and poverty. Having grown in the very same condition my biasness detects that I should concur with the phenomenon of demanding for better services from the public institution due to a number of reasons. Firstly, those in government promised a better life for all the South African citizens. Secondly, community members turn to compare their socioeconomic circumstances with those of their counterparts in well-developed municipalities. Like the majority of South African, the protestors are frustrated by the seemingly betrayal of the post 1994 democrating dispensation, where there is extreme inequality in the society.
It must be said with approval that to most communities protesting seems to be one of the most effective ways to bring politician to their backyards, and therefore embark on discussions that ultimately lead to the solutions of their community problems. Honestly speaking this sounds fair, because if the communities don’t force the politician to give them the attention they deserve through protests, then they know that they are likely to see the politician on two obvious occasions (on the ballot papers, and during the election campaign), and in between the voting times there is little on offer for them. Given our liberation struggle inheritance, it makes sense when ordinary South Africans`are taking the protesting route to make their voices to be heard. Perhaps they are withdrawing some inspiration from noble man and struggle heros like Nelson Mandela who once said “If the ANC does to you what the Apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the Apartheid government.”
Be that as it may, I acknowledge the fact that the South African constitution has provision for citizens to protest or march, but does it explicitly say protesters are condoned to the vandalising of public and private properties; the answer to this question is a very big NO. When one looks at the public service’s delivery protests statistics in recent years, it’s evident that both the private and public sector have lost a significant amount of money in the properties that were vandalized by protesters. I suspect that leaders of various community’s protests sometimes mislead their own people, and contribute to the worsening of living conditions in their communities, because how can you condone the destroying of public utilities, and privately owned businesses. Could this be an issue of saying that it will be better-off without the public utilities. If not, so why would you burn the health centres, trains, school, municipality offices and buildings. The question is, where will you get the treatment of the wounds sustained from the rubber bullets during the protest (because the clinic will be burnt to ashes).
The community leader have a critical role to play of educating people about the outcomes of vandalizing public utilities, because it’s like taking ten steps backwards instead of three forward, the reason being that the municipality has to deal with the damage done during the protests before attempting to solve the actual grievances. Furthermore, these leaders must encourage public participation by community members in order to strengthen cooperative governance, and orientate them about the objectives of their municipality’s Intergrated Development Plan, which is a framework of how the municipality executes it’s programmes and service delivery than arming members with hammers to break properties. Indeed, this might make a significant change because more often community members are inspired to protest, and vandalize properties without even knowing whether their municipality has the capacity and resources to fulfil their needs, they just work on pure assumptions. On the other hand, it must be said with shame that most of the public services delivery protest have provided an opportunity for hooligans to perform their barbaric acts on privately own businesses, and has somehow intensified xenophobic behaviours by community members that suffers from ethnical intolerance, because the majority of private businesses that gets looted or destroyed during these protests are foreign owned. Like any average South African I am not content with our country’s socioeconomic circumstances, but do strongly believe that they are many effective and non-violent ways to protest. I know the majority of South African will say that violent protest quickly attracts the attention of the politician (it does makes sense though), but the sad part is that it comes with high price to pay, and should not be condoned because it’s illegal to vandalized properties either privately or publicly owned.
- Allen Tshautshau, Environmental Control Officer and South African National Antarctic Programme’s Deputy Team Leader at Marion Island
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.