The poorest in South Africa are vociferously protesting the lack or inadequacy of basic services such as clean water or electricity. More and more former black ghettos of the apartheid era and slums are being added to the list of places where people do not enjoy the minimum conditions.
Residents have taken to the streets to demand a modicum of dignity after 20 years of so-called democracy. The civil unrest is felt from one end of the country and even in Cape Town residents of the villages were organized in a march to the center to demand improvements.
Three months before the general election, scheduled for May 7, “South Africa burns” read an article from the Star newspaper with a huge photo of a burning barricade in one of the affected villages.
Protests barricades, roadblocks and attacks on public schools begin to be part of the daily bread in this country with the greatest social inequality in the world exemplified by an unofficial unemployment rate of over 40% and a monthly income of less than 200 euros.
In the last three months, the police have recorded over 3,000 events, an average of 30 per day, of which a considerable part end with violence. Only in January eight protesters were shot dead by officers, a figure to which must be added two other deaths so far in February.
Neighborhoods whose residents are protesting are full of substandard housing. Lack of pipes that carry the water to the houses, electricity and other services such as public transport are the reasons for the protest. Neighbors say they are “tired of broken promises” from the government, which claims to have given more than one million homes to the most disadvantaged in the past two decades.
The lack of services and resources forced the neighbors to heat themselves in the winter by burning coal, which a few months ago caused fires in the barracks, thus increasing the personal dramas of those who lost their already meager belongings. A few kilometers from Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, people have to do hours of queuing in a village to collect drinking water to cook their food.
The protesters claim that although they have tried to discuss their problems with municipal services, so far they have not received any reply and thus have decided to take to the streets. A recent study by the University of Zululand warns that “the frustration” provides for the abundance of violent behavior among the young.
In fact, in recent days the protests have ended with the fire and the attack on a police station, a clinic, a library and a municipal office in different locations.
According to Lesetja Mothiba, head of the police for the Gauteng province, the protests are gestures of “pure criminality in the form of vandalism.” Police get involved in these demonstrations with live ammunition, causing injuries and even deaths.
In this sense, Riah Phiyega, the national police chief, admits that the body must change the means to disperse crowds. The slaughter of Marikana, in August 2012, that left 34 people dead, is still very present and the minds of the people who blame the police for their excesses and corruption.
The African National Congress (ANC ), the ruling party since 1994, accuses the opposition of organizing and promoting protests to win the political battle on the street and not in the polls.