National 27.7.2016 09:22 am

SA sees rise in violent protests

Protesters burn tyres and block roads in Riverlea ext 2 on July 20, 2016. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Protesters burn tyres and block roads in Riverlea ext 2 on July 20, 2016. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Violent protests over the election period are increasing, with mostly the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) staff and resources falling prey.

Releasing the At the heart of discontent: measuring public violence in South Africa report in Cape Town on Tuesday, Lizette Lancaster, the manager of the crime and justice information hub at the Institute for Security Studies said there would be more hotspots at the local government elections.

“[Protest action] escalating into violence impacting on the IEC is often sudden and sporadic,” said Lancaster.

“What we saw during the first registration weekend was there were 91 incidents reported in what we can estimate in about 30 areas, in the second registration weekend we saw eight incidents,” she said.

However, she said the IEC recognised it was becoming the target of people’s frustrations.

In the 2014 general election period, there were 146 related protests recorded in the six months leading up to and directly after the voting period and during political party campaigning. Of these, 71% were violent. Clashes between political parties were seen in provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng.

“The link between elections and protests, especially violent protests, needs to be properly understood if the government is to respond appropriately to ensure free and fair elections,” Lancaster said.

“We can focus on the elections but those issues [that communities are unhappy about] are not going to go away. Violence is going to be with us forever,” she said.

Western Cape provincial head of the IEC Courtney Sampson said the possibility of violence was always there, but political violence between opposition party members could not be solely concentrated on.

“We have staff out there who need to be taken care of, they need to be safe… and the voters,” he said.

Sampson said one of his “bugbears” was the condescending and patronising generalisation that protests were undertaken under the umbrella grievance of service delivery.

“There is a tyranny of political partyism. We are becoming so party political that no one is thinking politics anymore… service delivery; I would prefer the word justice.

“I think there’s a shift from policy of ideology to the policy of economics,” said Sampson.

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