Failure to provide services continues to drive protests in South Africa

Peaceful Assembly 

In a continuation of South Africa's strong culture of protest, a number of mobilisations have taken place lately in different parts of the country including Limpopo province and the commercial capital Johannesburg. As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, violence has become synonymous with some protests in South Africa, particularly those held to highlight the government's failure to provide basic services.

On 16th and 17th January, villagers in the Tshitale Community in Limpopo Province, about 300 kilometres from Johannesburg protested to demand the provision of a tarred road. During the protest, activists set fire to two schools, two government vehicles and a post office. They also blocked the main road into the area and dug a ditch across it to stop police from entering. In a crackdown against activists following the protests, South African security forces arrested forty-three suspects from Tshitale and Mphephu. Despite the mass arrests, the authorities later agreed to protesters' demands and will begin construction of a road in April.

On 16th January, in Alexander, a poor neighbourhood in Johannesburg, residents and students protested against a decision by a public vocational college to relocate some of their subjects to a different location, where students would have been required to spend more money on transportation to attend classes. Protesters burnt tyres and trees and trashed bins but no injuries or serious damage to property was recorded. The authorities agreed to engage with the students and community members to address the situation.

A key aspect of both protests was the positive attitude shown by the authorities as they promised to address the communities' grievances, despite the violence, especially during protests in Limpopo Province. Authorities are also attempting to resolve a standoff at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) insitutions, where students have been protesting in some cases amidst a heavy police presence.