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Zuma protests divided along racial, class lines

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South Africans have the right to express their democratic opinion through means of protest action so long as those protests remain within bounds of the rule of law. So says policy analyst, Jan Hofmeyr, as South Africans across the country prepare for a wave of anti-corruption marches under the banner of #ZumaMustFall.

President Jacob Zuma has become public enemy number one of sorts after a botched reshuffle of finance ministers that plunged the South African rand down to its lowest ever rate against the US dollar. The move has again brought about questions as to Zuma’s leadership capabilities and spurred a wave of calls for the president’s immediate resignation.

There have been some accusations that the anti-Zuma rhetoric has been built along racial lines, with some alleging the campaign has been “taken over by white South Africans” using it as a platform to air racist views.

With the marches coinciding with Reconciliation Day and racial tensions purportedly on the rise, Hofmeyr, who heads the Policy Unit at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, said such opposing views were evidently a reality of South African society.

“We have released a report about a week and a half ago that generally South Africans have low levels of trust across racial boundaries. Much of this stems from our low levels of interaction and not understanding the lives of others,” he explained.

Apart from racial divisions, Hofmeyr also suspected such protests were being divided along class lines. Whilst such anti-government opinions were not held exclusively amongst white South Africans, looking at the composition of the country’s middle and upper class, those sectors were still predominantly white.

“Ultimately what we still have is an infrastructure that reinforces a lot of the opinions we have. We are being socialised in very homogenous spaces so very often the perceptions we have of each other are being reinforced on a daily basis. Many of those perceptions are not always helpful when it comes to nation building,” he suggested.

#ZumaMustFall protests are due to be held on Wednesday in various parts of the country including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)


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