One must not be too quick to dismiss the protesters who are threatening to blockade national roads around the country next week to force government to reduce fuel prices.
They are certainly not the “lunatic fringe” in society. They are, by and large, ordinary people and companies who have got to the stage of desperation, hoping that their cries of “enough is enough!” will be listened to by the authorities.
As vehicle owners, they are seeing their financial lives eroding before their very eyes because of the spiralling petrol price. And a lot of the blame for that situation – although not all of it – can be laid at the door of the government.
The unsettled political and social circumstances, especially with the uncertainty around the “expropriation without compensation” commitment by the government, have hardly inspired confidence among local or foreign investors. That is one of the reasons why the rand has declined in value, meaning South Africans pay more for imported fuel. In addition, government duties, levies and taxes on each litre of fuel make up a significant proportion of its cost.
Government has also, plainly, failed to deal effectively with any previous public protests, including ones where there has been violence and destruction of property. Yet, every time there is a big protest, government sits ups and takes notice. So, it’s no surprise the fuel protesters have decided on road blockades.
Yet, we have to question whether this is the correct form of protest, much as we understand the motives. Thousands of motorists will be inconvenienced by road blocks, millions of litres of fuel will be burned unnecessarily and the economy will lose hundreds of millions of rands of lost productivity.
And, in the end, we do not believe such a protest will move the government at all.