Another day, another public property goes up in smoke. This is the sad state that South Africa finds itself in today. Violence and destruction of property have become the order of the day, and authorities seemingly have no strategy to bring this madness to an end.
A few weeks ago it was revealed that damage to property at institutions of higher learning by students demanding free tertiary education had escalated to nearly half a billion rand, while damage to schools that were torched in Vuwani, Limpopo, during violent anti-demarcation protests was about R350 million. These figures exclude damage caused on a daily basis to public property such as clinics and municipal buildings in several parts of the country experiencing violent service-delivery riots.
As if that wasn’t enough, on Monday night at least 20 buses and two municipal vehicles were torched in Pretoria and surrounding areas by enraged ANC supporters following the announcement of former minister Thoko Didiza as the mayoral candidate for Tshwane. Didiza was seen as a neutral choice over the two ANC factions in the capital, one supporting current mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa and the other favouring his ANC Tshwane region deputy, Mapiti Matsena.
The mayhem continued unabated yesterday with nearby highways blocked‚ shops looted, leading to the evacuation of the city centre. While the ANC has done well by deviating from its bizzare tradition of making public the names of mayoral candidates only after the polls, the party should take some responsibility for the mess in Tshwane and several parts of the country where citizens’ wishes have been ignored.
The Freedom Charter, a document regarded as the foundation of South Africa’s constitution, boldly states: The People Shall Govern. But is this a case when a few men and women at Luthuli House have the exclusive right to decide on citizens’ behalf as to who their leaders should be? Is this how democracy works? Surely the use of violence and vandalism as a means of protest is a barbaric act that has no place in a democracy.
But the ANC has its own share of blame for stubbornly refusing to listen to the voices of the people.