Johannesburg, South Africa - Inequality, low levels of access to resources, unresolved historical trauma, poverty and high levels of unemployment, were identified as some of the key drivers of violent protests. Corruption, lack of service delivery, unresponsive leaders were highlighted as key triggers for protests.
The issue of violent protests came under the spotlight at a seminar coordinated by Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) and several other organisations, in Pretoria on Wednesday.
The seminar explored the issues of why communities resort to violence when they voice their grievances - an issue of serious concern to civil society as the country approaches the upcoming local government elections.
“Violence that is linked to the local government elections is a huge concern for our society as it poses a threat to the sustainability of our hard earned democracy” said CSVR Executive Director Nomfundo Mogapi.
Lizette Lancaster ISS Manager: Crime and Justice Hub emphasized that society needs to look at a different approach when it comes to these violent protests. “In order to understand these violent protests we need to understand the role of various actors who through their action or inaction drive the violence. Working together and taking responsibility can help us solve these issues,” she adds.
Speakers at the seminar highlighted that communities do not just become violent, there are underlying factors that need to be assessed and understood in order to eliminate the risks of violence.
Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance Andries Nel said violent protests have complex contextual issues specific to each community, however they all have common underlying factors. These include economic growth, urbanisation, unemployment, democratic traditions and the social fabric of society.
“The economic and social fallout of the 2008/2009 global economic and financial crises only helps partially to explain the upsurge of these violent protests in South Africa,” said Nel.
“Intra and inter party politics, legacy of apartheid as it relates to spatial, economic and social issues, lack of appreciation on how local government works, relationship between communities and counselors, lack of social cohesion are issues that speak to the context specific issues around violent protests in South Africa,” he added.
The recent violent protests that occurred in Tshwane, Gauteng and in KwaZulu Natal were also raised. “The attitudes of leaders towards violence is a crucial issue whether these leaders tolerate violence,” said Lizette Lancaster ISS Manager: Crime and Justice Hub.
Mogapi said there needs to be a transformation of leaders to help in mitigating these violent protests in order to find solutions and get tangible results.
“Strengthening leadership in communities can also play a significant role in preventing these violent protests from happening,” said Mogapi.
“We also need to train local government leaders not just in service delivery skills but also in communication skills, and on how to treat people with dignity and respect” she said.
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