Yet another day in South Africa and yet another protest that involved teargas on the steps of parliament. The state of affairs in this country can be seen in the daily eruption of chaos.
While scenes reminiscent of the #FeesMustFall protests erupted outside parliament, students were apparently chasing police and security around a university campus. The day before, protesters from Olievenhoutbosch became violent and just days previously, fires raged during protests in Industria West.
Many South Africans have lost respect for due process but instead of labelling them as thugs, we need to ask why they have lost faith. We need to ask why a court interdict to stop protests outside parliament was not worth the paper it was written on. The answer is twofold. Firstly, their reserves of patience have worn thin. People can only be kept at arm’s length with promises for so long.
Secondly, and this leads to the violence, people know that making a noise and breaking things generally gets attention. The students got the president to announce a 0% fee increase for next year. That was a victory, but what precedent did it set? That revolutionary behaviour always results in getting what is just?
Consider the Lonmin strike that turned so violent it will go down as one of the darkest days in SA history. Protesters were encouraged by leaders to fight for something that seemed fair and they were told the company could afford to give in to their demands. Fast-forward to a week ago, and Lonmin’s threat to close shop if it isn’t bailed out puts into context the potential cost of protest action and giving in to pressure.
Union and civil leaders need to be cautious and use the right to protest, as enshrined in the constitution, with the best interests of themselves and the country at heart. Violence and chaos will destroy both.