Service delivery protests: Pre-election gimmick or outburst of popular anger?

14 April 2019 - 00:00 By JEFF WICKS


With less than a month to go before South Africans go to the polls, service delivery protests have kicked into high gear.
As Alexandra, on the edge of Sandton, erupted this week, the ANC came under fire for "engineering" the protests as an electoral plot to embarrass the DA/EFF coalition that rules Johannesburg.
EFF leader Julius Malema said: "It's a campaign strategy which is going to backfire big time on the ANC. Let them go on instigating, but they must know it will spread to the municipalities they are in."
Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana said these protests were motivated in part by "opportunism on the part of residents, who know politicians are desperate and are more likely to respond to demands by way of showing up and possibly addressing their concerns".
He added: "Whenever you go to the polls, you can expect there to be protest action. It has been happening since elections in 2006 and became quite pronounced then."
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba is due to visit the township tomorrow. His visit follows taunts by politicians that he doesn't care about the residents.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Alexandra on Thursday.
Some protesters have accused Mashaba of being too scared to address them. But the DA said the protests in Alexandra were "ANC-fuelled anarchy".
According to Malema, though, Mashaba should have developed a thick skin and gone to address the community on the second day of the protest. "People are saying we are quiet about Alex. You want us to support an ANC disruption of a township, we cannot do," said Malema.
Mashaba said the ANC was using community grievances for political gain.
Research firm Municipal IQ said there had been an increase in protests over the first three months of the year."As was widely anticipated, protests have surged to a new record for the first quarter," said Municipal IQ MD Kevin Allan."It is likely that protesters are making the most of the opportunity to draw politicians' attention to their grievances," he said.Johannesburg, which fell to the DA in 2016, has become a political hot potato amid fears that the ANC could slip below 50% in Gauteng in the May 8 election.

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