According to research results by leading security studies experts, South Africa is the most protest-rich country in the world.
A disturbing statement by the Institute for Security Studies during the SA Human Rights Commission hearings on ensuring the right to basic education yesterday, warned that South Africa’s political landscape and the “language” of people who felt disenfranchised has been characterized by confrontational protests.
The director-general of the Department of Basic Education, Mathanzima Mweli, stressed on the need for more severe measures to be taken to fight against the upsurge of violent protests in the country. Such measures may come in form of lengthy prison sentences and the involvement of the army.
Out of 2880 “incidents of public gathering related to protests” as recorded by the Institute for Security Studies’ public violence between 2013 and 2015, 53% were violent. This record apparently earned SA the title of most protest-rich country in the world.
In the latest protests in Durban, residents of Vuwani in Limpopo and Residents of Hammanskraal north of Pretoria saw a week of violent service delivery protests which led to the burning of schools and the tragic death of two people.
Mweli opined that, if the army had joined forces with the police, the damage in Vuwani could have been less severe.
“South Africa remains the most protest-rich country in the world. Protest is not just escalating, it is becoming more confrontational,” Imraan Buccus, a University of KwaZulu-Natal academic specialist in participatory democracy lamented.
Even more disturbing is the finding by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation which suggests that the organisers of these protests were often political leaders who exploit community frustrations for selfish reasons.
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According to the research, “their true motivation is often political or economic gain”, including access to positions of power or “lucrative council business”.
The centre’s executive director, linked the increased burning of tyres to the belief of community that the “smoke” calls on the leaders to listen to their complaints.