It’s ANC vs ANC behind protests: report

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The City Press newspaper reports studies suggest that ANC members are playing leading roles to promote their factions. Active, high-profile ANC members are often the key players behind angry community protests across South Africa, it says.

A recent report by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and Wits University, titled The Smoke That Calls, explores protest hotspots in Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Researchers found one common thread: the leading role played by ANC figures in all protests. The research started in 2008 after a violent spate of xenophobic attacks across the country and was finalised last June.

No towns or communities are named in the report – researchers used pseudonyms to protect their sources from any backlash.

In one case study, a group of residents – all of them card-carrying ANC members – organised a protest after prizes for a council-sponsored sports day were not delivered. “The concerned group grew from a handful of friends who were ANC members to 30 at the height of the protests, including civil servants such as teachers, a prison warden, government clerks and traffic cops, as well as spaza shop owners and some unemployed,” the report states. Others who got involved were an ANC branch treasurer, a branch chairperson, an IFP member who was a convicted murderer and a drug dealer.

But politics, the researchers found, were at the heart of the matter. The report reads: “Several informants maintained that the group was formed by the mayor to support her in her fallout with the council speaker and the town manager. “Some joined to fight corruption, and others because they hoped it would open doors to jobs, and it was known others were aggrieved because their access to lucrative tenders had dried up,” it reads in the report.

In another case study, they reported: “The eruption of protest was linked to divisions within the town council, with allegations that the speaker was feeding confidential information to the protest organisers as part of his effort to undermine the mayor.” And, the researchers found, those who get involved in protests with a political motive have learnt from party heavyweights.

The report mentions the ousting of former president Thabo Mbeki in Polokwane in 2007 and the ascendancy of President Jacob Zuma in discussing the new “style” of protest. “As one respondent in Voortrekker put it: ‘It’s become a style – if they could recall Mbeki, they can recall a councillor,'” the researchers said.

Another report earlier this year, conducted by local government data and intelligence service Municipal IQ, found that in the first seven months of this year, South Africa had recorded its highest number of service-delivery protests since 1994. Municipal IQ recorded 113 protests between January and July. This was a considerable number since there were 81 protests throughout last year.

Western Cape is the country’s protest hotspot, accounting for 24% of all protests recorded by the group in its report.

Municipal IQ economist Karen Heese said the major cause of protests in Western Cape was political tension between the ANC and the province’s ruling party, the Democratic Alliance. However, genuine service delivery concerns were the major driver of protest elsewhere, she said. “In other areas, the catalyst for protests was valid service-delivery issues. One-third of protesters, for example, wanted services such as housing, water and electricity,” said Heese.
“But, there might be political reasons in ANC-dominated provinces that are ravaged by factionalism. My view is that we can’t generalise,” Heese added. Politicians are taking the spike in protests very seriously. In North West, Premier Thandi Modise – who is also the ANC’s deputy secretary-general – has commissioned an investigation into the increasing number of protests across her province. Although the report is not yet out, sources have told City Press that all signs point to political rivalries being behind the protests.

Insiders said Modise commissioned the investigation because she believed the protests were politically motivated to make her look bad. Modise said: “Though in some instances genuine service-delivery concerns were used to mobilise for the wave of political thuggery that has affected innocent citizens, there is evidence that suggests that a coordinated and funded political programme was intended to render municipalities ungovernable as the first phase towards plunging the province into chaos.”