As violent protests flared up in several places in the country over the last week, it is likely that protesters are trying to draw politicians’ attention to their grievances.
In the wake of the protests in Alexandra in the DA-governed Johannesburg municipality, the DA claimed that the protests are “ANC-fuelled anarchy”.
Asked if it is possible that some of the protests are instigated by political parties for political gains ahead of the election, as alleged by the DA, economist at Municipal IQ Karen Heese told News24: “It is possible – even if it is not directly intended, politicking is likely to raise unhappiness in certain communities; the issue is whether there are valid concerns that political parties may or may not be galvanising support around.”
She said there was not necessarily a pattern that protests were more like to happen in a municipality that is governed by the DA.
“The ANC also struggled with a similar level of protests when it ran Johannesburg, for instance.”
Heese also said there wasn’t data to suggest that there had been an increase in violence over the last few weeks, as the election looms , but service delivery protests over the past few years have tended to have become even more violent and disruptive.
She said it was possible that the large, well-publicised protest action, such as in Alexandra, gave rise to protests elsewhere in the country.
“Contagion is definitely a factor. It is quite likely that Bekkersdal, Orange Grove and Tshwane communities may have seen Alex’s protests as a template for attention,” Heese said.
In a statement released last week, Municipal IQ said they found that 2019 had, in its first three months, seen an uptick in protest levels after a lull in the last few months of 2018.
Municipal IQ managing director Kevin Allan said: “As was widely anticipated, protests have surged – to a new record for the first quarter. It is likely that protesters are making the most of the opportunity to draw politicians’ attention to their grievances in the run-up to elections.”
Averaged over the past 15 years, Gauteng dominated as the most protest-prone province. But in 201,8 the Eastern Cape overtook Gauteng, and remains just slightly ahead of Gauteng as the most protest-prone province so far in 2019.
“There is noteworthy pressure on Eastern Cape municipalities – not only in Nelson Mandela Bay’s communities, where repeated protests have taken place, especially in Motherwell, but also further afield, in towns like Steynsburg and Lady Grey,” Heese said in the statement.
While service delivery protests can affect foreign-owned businesses who are subjected to looting, arson, and intimidation, this was only recorded in 4% of service delivery protests staged since the outbreak of xenophobia in May 2008, the statement read.
“It is imperative that there is a concerted effort by all politicians from all parties to build respect for foreign nationals’ rights, and to be accountable for service delivery failures rather than blaming these on migrancy,” Heese said.
Municipal IQ is a specialised local government data and intelligence organisation that collects data on service delivery protests staged against municipalities.