Media: Service delivery protesters ‘need voice’

8 09 2009

September 03, 2009 Edition 1
Beauregard Tromp – The Mercury

The recent service delivery strikes were a result of a lack of consultation.

This is said in a report compiled by the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Sociological Research, which undertook “rapid response” interviews with the residents of four townships affected by the protests.

The report also stated that residents were frustrated by the lack of channels through which they could voice their concerns “despite the accession to power of a new administration that residents expected would ensure a higher level of responsiveness”.

Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale was recently quoted as saying the protests were not directed at the “new” government but rather at the previous administration of Thabo Mbeki.

In July, protests peaked as people took to the streets to vent anger at issues from housing delivery, sanitation, healthcare to electricity and roads.

“Many of the protests occurred after sustained attempts by communities to be heard,” said Luke Sinwell, a researcher on the project.

He said while communities hoped the Zuma administration would improve their lives, the government seemed committed to “the same failing neo-liberal policies” and “continued to deal harshly with protests”.

“Trickling little bits of wealth to the poor and replacing councillors will not solve the problem,” Sinwell added.

The police, who were to have fired indiscriminately during the protests, were singled out in the report as fomenting the violence, with numerous reports of injuries recorded.

One police shooting victim from the Balfour, Mpumalanga, protests was taken to a hospital 80km away and not to one within 20km because it fell within a different province.

The researchers were at pains to stress that the issue of xenophobia was overemphasised by the media.

“This is not the same as when people were chased out of townships. This is about service delivery,” said Professor Peter Alexander, the head of the unit.

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