SA has a protest every two days

2013-01-21 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s wave of service delivery protests is far greater than previously imagined, with official police data revealing more than 3 000 protests in the past four years.

Media24 Investigations used access to information law to ask the South African Police Service for official records showing service delivery protests across the country since January 2009.

The data show that there is a service delivery protest in South Africa — either violent or peaceful — at least once every two days.

The true scale of the protests is far greater than other estimates.

Monitoring agency Municipal IQ recorded 410 “major service delivery protests” from 2009 to 2012.

The organisation records sustained protests over multiple days as a single occurrence. The University of the Western Cape’s Service Delivery Protest Barometer— which uses a slightly broader definition, but like Municipal IQ sources its data from media reports and other public records — arrived at about 720 protests from the beginning of 2009 to the end of August 2012.

Karen Heese of Municipal IQ says the large variance between their numbers and those of the police can be attributed to how the protests are counted — her organisation focuses solely on protests against the municipalities, while protests reflected in the police data could also be those against other government bodies such as provincial governments.

“My understanding of the SAPS data is that it is per incident, so while we recorded, say, Olifantshoek as a single protest, there could well be hundreds of SAPS incidents reported, even perhaps on the same day,” she said.

The police records — which show protests specifically classified as service delivery-related — show that there were 3 258 service delivery protests in the country between January 2009 and November last year, when the request for information was filed.

The data show service delivery protests by residential areas and policing districts across South Africa. This is the first time such a comprehensive count of service delivery protests has been made public. The records reveal that Mmabatho in the North West had the highest number of service delivery protests, one every 4,7 days over nearly four years. Of those, 190 were peaceful and 111 were accompanied by unrest.

With 293 protests, Johannesburg had the second highest number of protests, with Lenasia and Soweto with 26 protests and 39 respectively over the past four years. The Pretoria district was third with 235.

Nelspruit district had one of the most violent service delivery protests, with 106 violent protests and 61 peaceful protests. The Northern Cape recorded 74 violent and 65 peaceful protests.

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