Violent protests based on the perception in coloured communities that they have been unfairly marginalised may be misguided, but experts are warning that it’s setting a precedent on how to get government’s attention.
Several other coloured communities in Johannesburg yesterday followed Westbury’s lead and took to the streets, which prompted police interventions.
A protest erupted yesterday in Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg, “in solidarity with the Westbury” community, at which similar issues of “marginalisation and neglect” by the government were raised, with protesters calling it a “nationwide crisis”.
A demonstration also took place in Eldorado Park, but Joburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) Senior Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said these protests were mostly calm and there were no arrests.
As happened in Westbury, residents in the affected areas cited rampant drug abuse and gun crimes, and accused police of not handling the problems, which have been linked to the extent of youth joblessness – the same concerns as those voiced in Westbury.
The coloured residents said they were now seen as “too white to be black”, while during the apartheid era they had been considered “too black to be white”.
They also complained about lack of representation of coloured communities at this week’s Jobs Summit, initiated by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ennerdale community leaders, who asked to remain anonymous, said they had been objecting to the drug abuse and violence in their community for years. They demanded that police stop crime in the area and that service delivery improved. They warned that if government continued to ignore them, on the basis of what they believed was racial bias, they would protest and block roads indefinitely.
However, independent crime researcher Chris de Kock questioned their assertion of racial bias. He said: “This is not a racial issue because the issues they are facing are ones you see in other communities, too.
“It is more to do with the socioeconomic conditions they live in. You don’t find drug violence in Sandton or Randburg. It’s in areas where there is high unemployment, poverty and issues relating to poverty.”
This then led to the drug violence and other issues they were experiencing. He said although it would be ideal to have community-based police officers, it had become apparent that a tactical response team was necessary.
This had proven to be an effective strategy in similar communities in other parts of the world. He said although he wouldn’t recommend violence as a tactic to get the attention of the government, the prompt response to the Westbury protests showed that it worked.
Institute for Security Studies researcher Jakkie Cilliers agreed with De Kock, saying violence seemed to be the only way to get government to pay attention to these communities. But he also questioned the ANC’s commitment to nonracialism and to catering to the needs of other previously disenfranchised groups.
“The ANC is seemingly becoming more of a black nationalist party. We can say the changes in the current government further affect the racial divisions within the country.”
He believed that this perpetuated the perception that coloureds were not black enough, as opposed to how they were regarded as not white enough during apartheid. This exacerbated their feelings that they were being neglected by government. – firstname.lastname@example.org