[DEBATE] : SOUTH AFRICA - Cabinet (not Mbeki) worried about protests
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Fri Sep 7 07:49:10 BST 2007
Cabinet to probe service delivery protests
September 07, 2007 Edition 1
Wendy Jasson da Costa and Chiara Carter
A cabinet committee will investigate the violent countrywide service
protests and MPs lack of basic services might lead to social instability.
Government spokesman Themba Maseko yesterday said the committee was
probing the causes of the protests and would determine what steps needed
to be taken to resolve the issue.
The announcement came amid reports that at least 11 protesters in Soweto
had been arrested for burning down the home of a councillor this week.
Maseko said the cabinet had expressed its concern about the matter a
while ago and the committee's work would be led by Provincial and Local
Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi.
IFP MP Inka Mars said in the National Assembly that the debate about
human settlement could not have come at a more appropriate time as
public frustration with the government's lack of service delivery was
"reaching boiling point in numerous communities".
She said this spelt a danger for democracy as social instability could
lead to destabilisation.
Public frustration was understandable because the housing backlog was
not being eradicated quickly enough and many still did not have basic
services and the pace of provision was too slow, she said.
At the same time, the office of Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana is
preparing for its own investigation into the matter which will focus on
four municipalities in different parts of the country where people have
made their dissatisfaction known at demonstrations.
Responding to questions by the DA and UDM in the National Assembly last
week, President Thabo Mbeki downplayed the size of the protests, saying
they did not involve entire communities and could not be seen as a "mass
The DA's Sandra Botha said there had been 5 000 service protests in the
past year, the highest in the world.
"To me, that sounds like a crisis," Botha told Mbeki.
Mbeki admitted there were challenges and said there was "some way to go"
for the government to provide basic services.
Mbeki tells parliament 'there is no service provision crisis'
August 31, 2007 Edition 1
There was no service provision crisis or, for that matter, a mass
rebellion in the country, President Thabo Mbeki told parliament yesterday.
However, he urged that the defence of the country's democracy was "our
collective responsibility" and should not be "undermined by those ready
to cause all manner of problems because of a selfish interest".
The president was replying to questions in the National Assembly
yesterday from, among others, the DA's Sandra Botha, the leader of the
opposition in the House, and UDM leader Bantu Holomisa.
On service provision, he said this was continuing apace and that the
government continued to work hard to address the problems that did exist.
"For anyone to posit a notion of a crisis of service delivery in the
country would be incorrect," he said
However, Mbeki acknowledged that there was "some way to go" to meet the
government's objectives to provide basic services.
This was borne out by the fact that 15% of households still did not have
access to potable water, 30% had no access to sanitation and 26% had no
Botha, however, was unconvinced that all was rosy.
"Despite your reassurances, there were 5 000 service delivery protests
in the last year. The highest in the world. To me, that sounds like a
She blamed the ANC's deployment policy for the problems, saying that
party cadres were appointed at the expense of competent managers.
Mbeki denied service provision problems had anything to do with cadre
The real issue was how to retain or attract the calibre of experienced
people needed in areas that did not have the financial muscle to compete
with other wealthier ones.
The government was inter-vening to ensure that municipalities,
particularly rural ones, did have the capacity to deliver. Close
attention had to be paid to the "resource deficiencies" in an area of
local government that was not as well-funded as it should be, Mbeki said.
Holomisa was particularly concerned about the anger and defiance
displayed in service provision protests, as well as industrial action
and even by those attending court cases.
"Sometimes, the lack of decisive action by the government to solve these
issues like Khutsong lies at the heart of the escalating unrest. It
creates a precedent that in order to be heard, a community must resort
Mbeki agreed that there were "unacceptable features" in some of the
The president played down the size of the protests, saying they did not
involve entire communities and that they could not be seen as a "mass
Police repression in Protea South an indicator of a national trend
5 September 2007
Issued by the Freedom of Expression Institute
The Freedom of Expression Institute's concern about police repression of
protests – especially those organized by poor communities against the
lack of service delivery – was heightened this week with the highly-
publicized housing protest in Protea South which was violently attacked
FXI staff were eyewitnesses to acts of police harassment against Protea
South residents Monday morning. Maureen Mnisi, a community leader and
Gauteng Chairperson of the Landless People's Movement, was arrested
while trying to speak with the media. She and at least five other
community members were taken into custody and released, without being
charged, after spending the night in jail. FXI staff overheard a police
captain admitting that he had "always wanted to arrest" Mnisi.
We were shocked by the police violence. SAPS members fired at random
towards the protesters, leaving the pavement covered with the blue
casings of rubber bullets. Police also deployed a helicopter and water
cannon, and we saw at least two officers using live ammunition. One
Protea South resident, Mandisa Msewu, was shot in the mouth by a rubber
bullet, and several other residents were attended to by paramedics due
to police violence.
Similar acts of protester repression were reported by the Anti-
Privatisation Forum in other parts of Gauteng yesterday. Several
protesters in Kliptown were reportedly beaten and arrested by private
security guards. And in the Vaal, according to the Coalition against
Water Privatisation's organizer, Patra Sindane, police opened fire
without any warning on protesters who were just beginning to gather and
then proceeded to go from house to house in pursuit of the protest's
Monday's events in Protea South seriously undermined media freedom as
well. A Sunday Times journalist, Lirhuwani Mammburu, was harassed by
police after photographing Mnisi's arrest. A SAPS member demanded to see
his press badge and, even after Mammburu displayed his credential, the
officer pushed Mammburu violently in the face, threatening to beat him up.
The deliberate intimidation of journalists is not only a Gauteng
problem. Last Friday (31 August), a journalist for the Durban-based
Mercury allegedly was kidnapped and assaulted following his research
into repression of shack dwellers in Pinetown. A local business leader,
believed to be seeking the destruction of the Motala Heights shack
settlement, allegedly stole the journalist's film, promised to assault
another Mercury journalist, and threatened to kill the journalist if the
Mercury published the story.
These distressing events over just the last few days indicate continuing
violations of the rights of protesters and the rights of the media to
cover such protests. The constitutional right to protest is increasingly
under threat, and the Regulation of Gatherings Act (RGA) – which which
aims to facilitate such assemblies – is being routinely violated –
usually by police who do not understand the provisions of the Act and
act contrary to both its spirit and its letter.
These rights infringements this week come just days after the nationwide
Freedom of Expression Network (FXN) Day of Action last week which
protested against such acts of repression. It is just such violations
that have prompted the FXI to assist in setting up the FXN, which seeks
to build capacity among movements of the poor to better defend their
rights from continuing attempts to silence them. The FXI believes that
this on-going situation regarding the harassment of protesters demands
the urgent response of Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula. We
have sought a meeting with the Minister to apprise him of the situation
that protestors face and of the ongoing violations of the Constitution
and the RGA.
For more information, contact:
o Virginia Setshedi: (011) 403 8403; Cell: (078) 473 3086
o Na'eem Jeenah: (011) 403 8403; Cell: (084) 574 2674
o Henry Seton: (011) 403 8403; Cell: (076) 977 7618
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