Lack of jobs factors in violent protest

2011-09-10 16:09

Jobs, rather than service delivery, are at the root of protests, reveals new research out this week.

Research carried out by Municipal IQ shows that unemployment is as high as 43% in wards that have experienced protests in the Johannesburg Metro. Almost half of the people who live in these wards earn less than R800 a month.

The rapid movement of people from the countryside to the city is said to be another problem that fuels community protests as people scramble for housing and other limited public resources in the cities.

Statistics show that Gauteng and the Western Cape account for 46% of the recorded protests that have taken place between January and August this year. So far 56 protests have been recorded compared to 111 last year.

Municipal IQ managing director Kevin Allan said most of the protests were taking place in informal settlements because the poor and unemployed were concentrated on the margins of cities.

The protests surged after the elections partly because of the high expectations raised by politicians’ promises in the build-up to the elections, he said.

Johannesburg’s Thembelihle, which went up in flames this week, is a typical example of the kind of place likely to experience community unrest.

Residents skirmished with police, protesting over what they termed poor housing, water shortages and corruption.

As far back as 2002 the City of Johannesburg relocated Thembelihle residents to Lehae and Vlakfontein after declaring it unfit for housing.

Metro spokesperson Nthatise Modingoane said the shantytown was built on a sinkhole, making it unsafe for people to live in.

The Thembelihle protests come just weeks after similarly violent uprisings in areas such as Zandspruit, Chiawelo, Noordgesig, Orange Farm, Ramaphosa informal settlement, Kombisa, Schubardt Park, Olievenhoutbosch and Winterveldt.

However, in some cases the demonstrations had something to do with perceptions about government’s capacity to deliver services.

For example:
In June the residents of Noordgesig barricaded roads and burned tyres in protest against electricity outages, water shortages and lack of housing.

In April a march in the Free State, protesting the lack of running water, turned violent. Community leader Andries Tatane was shot dead, allegedly by police.

In Wesselton, near Ermelo, there were protests over the lack of basic services, housing and employment.

Residents of West Beach informal settlement in Du Noon in the Western Cape protested in May over insufficient toilets, poor waste removal and the lack of electricity.

The Makaza informal settlement, outside Cape Town, also experienced unrest over electricity and “poor services” in January.

Residents of Masiphumelele, outside Cape Town, protested over service delivery in January this year.

Allan said municipalities needed to find ways of including the disgruntled communities in local economic development to counter the feeling that they were being excluded from development.

“It is not easy. Cities are under a lot of pressure to solve this delivery crisis. How you include people in an informal settlement is a challenge,” he said.

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