Service delivery protests snowball and politicians shift blame

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CAPE TOWN, April 12 – With general elections weeks away, service delivery protests have flared across the country and claimed at least two lives.

South Africa – Pretoria – 12 April 2019 – Protesters from Gomorrah informal settlement in Pretoria West takes cover as they clashed with police officers during #ThwaneShutdown protests demanding service delivary.
Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)

On Friday afternoon, sections of the N2 outside Strand in the Western Cape remained closed for traffic as ongoing violent protests that have shut down Pennyville in Soweto and Alexandra in Johannesburg spread southwards.

Roads were equally closed in Eersteriver after vehicles were set alight in a protest over access to housing, and Western Cape police said 37 suspects had appeared in court after they were arrested in connection unrest in Lwandle, outside the Strand.

In Gauteng, Rus-ter-Vaal battles between protestors and police continued, while in Pennyville eight people were arrested but protesters vowed to continue with a shut down and demanded title deeds for properties were handed to residents within a week, in a memorandum handed to Premier David Makhura’s office.

The protests began more than a week ago in Alexandra, one of the country’s oldest townships, with residents setting barricades alight and saying they wanted proper services from the Democratic Alliance-run council. In Soshanguve, outside Pretoria, two protesters were killed.

Schools were closed in Gauteng, and on the Cape Flats, health services were running on skeleton staff. In the Free State trucks were torched.

The DA has accused the African National Congress of fomenting the unrest, and the ruling party fired back by accusing it of resorting to the apartheid regime’s strategy of blaming unrest on a threat of legal action.

“It is as clear as day that ANC Anarchists are ready to burn down the country and criminalise communities in order to create the impression that well-run Democratic Alliance (DA) governments of Johannesburg and Tshwane are not working for the people,” the DA leader in Gauteng, John Moodey, said on Friday afternoon.

The ANC’s spokesman in the Western Cape retorted that the party should take responsibility for its failings.

“The DA’s standard response to blame the ANC for everything, even when it’s messed up, like keeping Khayelitsha in darkness through an absence of street lights and deliberately and wantonly not building enough houses,” Dennis Cruywagen said.

“This tactic of trying to evade responsibility for the anger in different communities caused will not wash. We urge (premier candidate) Alan Winde and the DA leadership to stop blaming us and take responsibility.

“‘The Premier and Mayor must go out to different communities and explain themselves. We are not responsible for high water bills. We are not responsible for an almost non-existent housing delivery programme. We are not to blame for service delivery protests. Such tactics do not form part of the renewal promised by President Ramaphosa’s new dawn.”

Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, urged politicians to draw up plans to address the concerns of communities.

“The eruption of protests ahead of the election shows people’s discontent with the failure of politicians to make good on their promises in the past five years. Access to water, decent housing and electricity are essential for anyone to live a life of dignity,” Mohamed said.

“As the country heads to the polls next month, politicians must develop post-election plans in line with the country’s human rights obligations. These plans must be followed with concrete action to address the issues raised by communities. By doing so, it will not only improve the daily lives of people but will tackle the triple burden of unemployment, poverty and inequality.”  (ANA)