Durban — Belinda Johnson, a public policy analyst and lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, says any protest has the potential to spiral into violence.
“Especially in circumstances where basic services are either extremely limited or non-existent. Whether the protest escalates and becomes violent, like at the start of 2023, or becomes widespread like the protests that took place during the July unrest in 2021, is dependent on so many complex variables,” Johnson said.
The protests during the unrest were the result of complex factors. Former President Jacob Zuma’s arrest, food security, and stress from the lockdown were all contributing factors, she said. And there was evidence that some individuals and groups who were involved in fuelling the fire had their own motivations.
“The protests that took place last year in Phoenix, and that took place again recently are the result of service delivery failure,” Johnson said.
“The water system in eThekwini for example has not been well maintained despite the funding set aside. I will point out that after the violent protests that took place in Phoenix in January 2023 a planned peaceful protest was undertaken in Phoenix whose organisers took care to ensure it remained peaceful.
“From the community perspective, the noise on Twitter suggests a lot of residents feel this might be payback for the 2021 conflict in Phoenix and Verulam.
“What is more concerning from my perspective as a public policy researcher is that these types of protests are symptoms of escalating service failure that persists despite remedial efforts and interventions,” said Johnson.