Today I found an interesting piece on News24. It outlined the fact that almost half of a group of young adults surveyed told market researcher Pondering Panda that violent strikes were the only way to get the attention of bosses (http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Violence-gets-bosses-to-listen-survey-20121023.).
More black respondents supported violent strikes than any other races (at 53%), which is understandable since they are the majority of minimum wage earners in South Africa at present, followed by 35% of coloureds and 25% of Indians. Only 11% of whites conveyed this outlook. White respondents were much more likely than blacks to feel that violent strikes were against the law, and that strikers should be arrested. This issue is not so much about race as it is about circumstances. It is easy to see destruction and violence as unnecessary when removed from the whole process.
Acting government spokeswoman Phumla Williams says of the matter that “No one should be intimidated to take or not to take industrial action in a democracy”, and goes on to say that ”No one should resort to any forms of violence against people or property as a form of striking or protest” (http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2012/10/11/illegal-and-violent-strikes-hurt-south-africa-government.). Although of course I agree to this in theory- that violence is a huge problem in this country and that attitudes need to change-it is a very complicated issue indeed. We cannot pin the blame on the strikers directly for this attitude, and need to look at the fact that violence is not the ‘go to’ solution so much as the last resort in often very long battles to be heard. Violence is something that happens because of a build-up of frustration over time, and often bursts forth out of desperation. Also, unfortunately violence is something that is extremely embedded in our society, and follows a vicious and continuous cycle. It is everywhere around us all the time.
Unfortunately, aside from deaths that result, strikes and protests are at present giving South Africa a bad name internationally, as a country constantly using lawlessness, violence, and intimidation to try and bring about change. One might think to themselves, who wants to listen to a bunch of angry people brandishing sticks and other threatening weapons? Does this demand respect? They are abusing their democratic right to strike, and are undoing all of the work done after apartheid to create “a space for protected peaceful strikes, which obviates the need for illegal strikes accompanied by violence and intimidation”, says Williams. Unfortunately, we are still very much in the throws of the aftermath of apartheid, and things are far from where we would like them to be. It is perhaps a case of bosses and strikers not communicating correctly often, a lack of working together which is causing such a large number of strikes in South Africa in the first place, and worse than that- that they feel they have to be violent and destructive to get attention and action.