Cape Town - The Western Cape is seeing more violent service delivery protests than most other provinces. For the first time in five years, the province has had more protests than Gauteng.
While Gauteng’s protests have dramatically decreased this year, the Western Cape is leading the trend in violent protests.
There were more than 200 protests in SA between January and August.
Reasons include unhappiness with municipal services like water and electricity. But other issues like land and housing are also major factors.
These are the findings of the Multi-level Government Initiative’s Service Delivery Protest Barometer.
The protest barometer initiative is based within UWC’s Community Law Centre.
Researchers on Wednesday outlined their latest findings.
In the first eight months the Western Cape had 51 protests to Gauteng’s 30.
Violent protests include rocks hurled at motorists or tyres burned to block roads.
Jaap de Visser, who heads the initiative, said it was not clear why the numbers were rising in the Western Cape while dropping in Gauteng.
“Gauteng could be getting something right, or the media there is not writing that much about the protests.
“In the Western Cape it could be linked to the stand-off between the DA and the ANCYL… or because there is progress, but people don’t see that progress where they want to see it.”
Nico Steytler, the director of UWC’s community law centre, said the reasons for protests often changed.
The unhappiness might have started with housing. But when it was not resolved, people became frustrated.
“Housing is no longer the issue, it’s now: ‘You are ignoring us’. The lack of response then triggers another cycle of protests.” Steytler said local government was often the target. For instance, there were no protests against the provincial government when there were low matric pass rates. “Local government is the closest to the people.”
Derek Powell, a senior researcher with the initiative, said it was important not to draw “large conclusions” based on the findings.
Powell said more research needed to be done linking issues like unemployment to protests. The initiative would also track a municipality’s audit outcomes to see whether this had any impact on the number of protests.
“We should be prudent and cautious about speculation on these issues.”
Powell said the initiative wanted to study the triggers and warning signs of protest violence.
The city stressed that the spate of recent protests in Cape Town were politically motivated. Since July protests have caused R14 million worth of damage.
Solly Malatsi, spokesman for mayor Patricia de Lille, said there was a “clear political motive” from the ANCYL who “threatened on numerous occasions” to make the city and province “ungovernable”. “It is essential to differentiate between genuine service delivery protests by communities calling for additional services and politically orchestrated protests that are initiated by a political minority to advance their political agenda.”
Malatsi said this was also a finding in the Municipal IQ. The city’s own customer satisfaction survey showed the majority of residents were satisfied with municipal services. He said the city also provided a wide range of free services.
The ANC in Cape Town said the increase in protests spoke of the frustration of residents whose complaints were falling on deaf ears.
Tony Ehrenreich, the leader of the ANC in the city council, said the number of protests were climbing because people were becoming more frustrated.
“People believe their demands are not being taken seriously. There is a sense that their needs are not at the top of the list. The experience is that the actual delivery takes place in the wealthy areas and the promises of delivery happen in the poor areas.”
Ehrenreich said although other provinces did have the funds to address all service delivery problems, they were at least committing money to solve them.
“In the Western Cape there is significant under-expenditure in relation to people’s needs.”