Sunday, July 26, 2009

Poverty and exclusion behind the protests

A surge in ser­vice delivery protests in recent weeks stems from structural economic inequalities which have left the poor on the margins of society, an analyst said yesterday.

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A researcher for the Corruption and Governance Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, Andile Sokomani, said that even before the recession — South Africa’s first in 17 years — the country’s poor were sidelined from reaping the benefits of a growing economy.

“We had a robust economy by South African standards, but that failed to trickle down to other people besides the middle class and business. The situation has now been made worse by the recession,” he said.

Sokomani said this led communities to view the state as underperforming and failing to meet their needs.

This has been the main driver behind the protests, he said.

With the newly elected government headed by President Jacob Zuma nearly 100 days into its term, Sokomani said expectations that the new administration will bring changes could be exacerbating the situation.

“Most of the protesters are the political forces which were responsible for his [Zuma’s] installation as president of the ANC and then the country, so there is an expectation that his administration is more sensitive to their plight, and hence you see the sort of outbreak at the moment,” he said.

However, Sokomani said the current problems were inherited from the previous administration and would take time to overcome.

The inclusion of a national planning commission and a monitoring unit in the Presidency would go some way in addressing these structural inequalities in the long term, he added.

South Africa has seen an upsurge in service delivery protests in recent weeks, which have simmered ahead of the election earlier this year.

Angry crowds in townships across the country burnt tyres and hurled stones at passers-by as their frustration spilled over.

Municipal IQ, which monitors municipal service delivery hot-spots, recorded 16 protests in various parts of the country until the end of June this year.

At least seven further protests were reported in the media since the start of July — in Piet Retief, Diepsloot, Dinokang near Zeerust, Lydenburg, Kayelitsha, Thokoza and Meyerton.

The National Taxpayers’ Union has been leading a form of protest over service delivery since 1995, which has seen 30 towns withholding their taxes until delivery promises are met, with a further 280 considering similar action.

A town withholding taxes, Sannies­hof, met representatives from Zuma’s office recently over poor delivery. However, it has not received feedback since it handed over documents indicating the extent of the problems two weeks ago.

Delivery is also hampered by a lack of resources caused by people failing to pay for services.

SA Local Government Association (Salga), a legislated body, concurs that a lack of resources has plagued municipalities across the country.

“Municipalities have limited resources but the demands on those resources are endless,” said spokesman Mogomotsi Mogodiri.

The problem was further fuelled by corruption and financial mismanagement, said Sokomani.

While Salga concedes that there is a lack of skill in local government, it views the protests as premature.

“Salga supports the right of individuals to engage … as long as they are legal and not violent; we condemn the violent nature of the protests.

“There are proper platforms for communities to raise issues and we don’t believe people have exhausted all these issues to turn to protests,” Mogodiri said.

1 Opinion(s):

Pensioner said...

I wonder if the current upsurge in violence has anything to do with the threat the idiots from mk made, that they would make DA and IFP controlled Cities ungovernable after the anc's disasterous election results in some areas, like, Western Cape, Cape Town, Vereeniging etc. We here in Fish Hoek have had a couple of interesting events going on over the last few weeks. This and the fact that the people are getting pissed off with election promises jz made and, as far as they were concerned, what jz says, he can deliver. Poor sods.