Government wants to see the back of violent service delivery protests by 2014. That emerged from Cabinet’s administrative cluster media briefing last week.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Sicelo Shiceka told journalists there is currently a “high degree of unhappiness about the quality and the quantity of services delivered at a local government level.” He added the situation has continued for the past 15 years, with intermittent service delivery protests becoming the expression of the public’s discontent with government.
“Therefore from our point of view we believe that let’s find peaceful means to address the thing we have said in our plan that by 2014 we would like to see a situation where there are no violent protests in South Africa,” he said.
He added government is working to put in place mechanisms to respond to complaints and “attend to people’s issues and therefore they don’t have to go to the streets to burn tyres and property for them to be listened to, going forward.”
Shiceka said as part of his department’s turn-around strategy rapid response teams would be deployed to deal with grievances quickly. He said by the end of the calendar year provinces should be able to respond to concerns raised by community members in just two days. “In all these protests people have raised issues with government in one way or the other [and] there was no attention given,” said Shiceka. “We find that government has been lethargic at most and [at] worst doing nothing.”
A cluster media statement added that local “government in South Africa has for some time been in distress, with municipalities unable to effectively perform their core functions resulting in communities progressively losing confidence in government.
“All members of this cluster are committed to coordinating the work of their respective departments in order to ensure an integrated approach to service delivery, governance that is aimed at improving government planning, decision making and the coordination of all government programmes at national, provincial and local government level,” the statement added. Other that Shiceka’s department, the cluster includes the departments of home affairs, public service and administration, justice, performance monitoring and evaluation as well as finance.
The latest round of protests started soon after the election of President Jacob Zuma in April last year. “Some were labour disputes such as the nationwide municipal workers’ strike in July and August 2009, but the largest and most violent protests were from local communities,” the SA Institute for Race Relations said last month. “Last year’s protests, most of which occurred in July and August, led to the deaths of four people, some 94 injuries (mostly of protestors), 750 arrests, and damage to municipal buildings and police vehicles,” the institute said. This year there’s been renewed protests at Balfour in Mpumalanga and at Orange Farm, Boipatong, Sebokeng and Sharpville in Gauteng. All involved some looting, vandalism and arson.
Pic: Police firing on protestors at Siyathemba, Balfour. Placing burining tyres in the road is a common protestors’ tactic.