The innocent victims of violent protests

2018-06-24 10:16
Mew Way protest towards Cape Town.(Zukile Daniel/News24)

Mew Way protest towards Cape Town.(Zukile Daniel/News24)

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Service-delivery protests and the violence that accompanies them have become so normalised that none of us is shocked any more.

It has become so standardised that when a community is demanding housing or a road from government, they seem to feel that the only way to get government’s attention is to burn the infrastructure that is in their area. We know of the more than 20 schools that were set on fire, interrupting teaching for many months, in Vuwani, Limpopo, in 2016 because residents wanted a separate municipality.

While I often look at these incidents from a newspaperman’s perspective, Tuesday June 12 brought the violence and destruction of public property closer to home. On that morning, my nieces and many of their peers got to their school, Letsakuthula Primary School in Matsulu, Mpumalanga, for their midyear examinations, only to find parts of the building on fire. Traumatised children watched as firefighters tried to save this relatively new school.

The faces of the little ones in the pictures sent to me said it all. Shock, upset, anger and uncertainty were written across their little faces. Even worse was the fact that the school was in the middle of exams and this unfortunate incident meant the children were denied an opportunity to test their knowledge of what they had learnt in the second term of the school calendar.

Now they had the images of their burning school in their minds and were still expected to continue writing exams the following day and on subsequent days.

It appeared that an unknown person or persons deliberately set the school alight. Windows were broken to ensure that the fire caught the furniture inside offices and classrooms. The damage has not been quantified yet, nor has there been any report regarding the arrest of those responsible.

What I fail to understand with this incident, and the many others which have become common in our news agenda, is what drives communities to burn the very place where their children are supposed to get an education, or the place where they get medical assistance when sick or involved in accidents, or burn and loot shops from where they buy their food.

I do not know the answers to the motivation behind this phenomenon. But what I know is that it sets back the development of communities.

State funds which would have been spent on other services have to be diverted to repair the damage to the school, clinic, police station or road – again robbing the very community of better services.

But the trauma in the eyes of these little ones will be etched in my memory and remind me, and many others, that we are a society that destroys the little we have to demand better services.

Follow me on Twitter @DumisaneLubisi

Read more on:    protests  |  violence  |  service delivery

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