A nation’s dirty politics of violence

2013-06-09 10:00

Just like the toilet politics in the run-up to the 2011 local government elections, the dirty protests in the Western Cape this week made for some humorous wordplay.

But the throwing of human faeces at the steps of the provincial legislature, and at provincial and local leaders, by self-proclaimed ANC Youth League members was no joke.

If the protesters had a legitimate complaint – and none of them had so far clearly explained why they were protesting against the portable flush toilets the City of Cape Town provided – it got buried in all the muck.

The ANC Youth League and the party itself, through Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, quite correctly condemned the protesters’ methods.

It would be good to see President Jacob Zuma also take a position on this and add his voice to the condemnations.

The dirty protests are similar to violent protests and strikes, or the destructive burning of libraries and government buildings by people unhappy with issues like service delivery or perceived corruption and fraud.

Violence has become a method of choice for protesters because it often is a very effective way to draw media attention to a cause and to get embarrassed government leaders running to solve a problem.

But it places leaders in a catch-22 because they are damned if they pay attention to these protests and damned if they don’t.

With the 2014 elections only a year away, many communities would want to use the politics of violence to get a response from eager-to-please campaigning politicians.

South Africa’s image abroad is already suffering because of the recent violent labour unrest and it would be sad to see this situation worsen ahead of the elections, which should be our democratic pride and joy.

Leaders should continue to speak out against this violence, saying “not in our name”, and whip the criminal justice system into shape so that it can start dealing with this dirt effectively.

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