Service delivery protests on the rise, with petrol bombs being used and journalists targeted

Police try to diffuse a total shutdown protest in Alexandra, in one of many similar protests to have hit South Africa this year.
Police try to diffuse a total shutdown protest in Alexandra, in one of many similar protests to have hit South Africa this year.
Image: Penwell Dlamini

The number of service delivery protests for 2019 has already eclipsed the total for 2016.

That's what Municipal IQ, which specialises in local government data, revealed on Tuesday.

Municipal IQ monitors protests via information that publicly available, such as media reports and police media statements. They count protests staged by community members against municipalities about issues that are the responsibility (or the perceived responsibility) of local government. They exclude protests over issues outside of local government’s ambit, such as those related to political parties.

So far this year they have recorded 140 service delivery protests nationwide, compared to 137 in 2016 and 82 in 2011.

Service delivery protests in 2019 so far, compared to the totals from previous years.
Service delivery protests in 2019 so far, compared to the totals from previous years.
Image: Municipal IQ

Despite the national general elections last month, there was still a drop in the number of protests, which often peak in April.

“Even when voters could use their sanction at the ballot box last month, a number chose rather to make themselves heard through service delivery protests,” said Municipal IQ managing director Kevin Allan.

“May saw a slight drop-off in protests. Protests remain a special concern, however, where the level of violence appears to be ratcheting up, with petrol bombs used, motorists and journalists targeted, and even crèches in the firing line,” said Municipal IQ economist Karen Heese.

Service delivery protests from January to May 2019 according to province.
Service delivery protests from January to May 2019 according to province.
Image: Municipal IQ

Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have experienced the most protests so far this year, followed by the Western Cape.

“Gauteng has returned to its typical top spot as the protest capital of South Africa, followed by the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, with the latter particularly rattled last month by a series of protests in Msunduzi and eThekwini,” said Municipal IQ.

“It's concerning that there are suggestions that recent Msunduzi protests might have political dimensions that detract from service delivery concerns,” said Heese.

Despite the drop in May, Heese believes SA is “by no means out of the woods”.

“Winter awaits hard-hit informal settlements, where protests are increasingly prominent, and there are also price hikes that will compromise ratepayers enduring difficult economic conditions," she said.

“It is however an encouraging possibility that South Africans appear to be willing to give the new political administration a chance to settle into coordinating improved service delivery.”


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