I expressed in an earlier post my shock with the attitude that protesters have about needing to use violence and destruction to get attention. Not just to get attention, but the ONLY way to get attention. I exclaimed that this was not a simple issue, and no one party can be blamed. We are still dealing with the age old issue of the powerless masses vs the powerful minority. I feel that the fact that we have such extensive strike action on such a regular basis points very strongly to the deeper underlying issues still very apparent in South Africa such as the voiceless masses. In a democracy people continuously feel they are not being heard, and are as angry and frustrated as ever. When I scroll down News24’s recent strike reports I realise just how many individual separate cases of dissatisfaction and contestation are going on with regard to labour, and the promises not delivered by the Government and/or bosses.
Where does one begin in explaining the vast number of problems that we as a country are still facing? Strikes and demonstrations are just one of the visible outcomes of a country still so heavily burdened with inequality and poverty. As I read recently in the economist, “It [South Africa] has made progress since becoming a full democracy in 1994. But a failure of leadership means that in many ways, South Africa is now going backwards” (http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21564829-it-has-made-progress-becoming-full-democracy-1994-failure-leadership-means.). Since 1994 South Africa has made progress in some ways; it has become a democracy and overthrown the racist governance of the past. Many more citizens have access to clean water and electricity and between 1996 and 2010 the proportion living on less than $2 a day fell from 12% to 5%. But in other ways we are in a worse state than before. At the recent Marikana strike an estimated 34 people were shot dead, and since then mayhem has broken out at many other mines too. Thousands of miners have since been fired. Our GDP growth is expected to average at 2.5% cent, down from 3.1% in the previous year. We need growth rates in excess of five per cent to create more jobs (http://www.westerncape.gov.za/speech/state-nation-address-2013.). Unemployment is currently at over 25%. (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/south-africa/unemployment-rate.). After 18 years of democracy, South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world.
Another big problem is that, although the ANC once stood for freedom, equality and the empowerment of all people, today it is a party fraught with the corruption and greed of individual members, out for themselves and their own interests first and foremost. While many struggle to make ends meet Zuma spends Millions on his own private estate.
South Africa has been dubbed the protest capital of the world (http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/chrisrodrigues/2010/04/05/on-revolutionary-songs/.), since 2008 more than 2 million people have taken to the streets in protest every year. The most common reasons for protest are land and housing disputes. The number of protests reached an all-time high in 2010/2011 and then a further all time post-apartheid peak in July 2012 (http://www.sacsis.org.za/site/article/1388.). “Land and housing issues are the most oft-cited with 303 incidents over the 6-year period, with poor service delivery second most frequent at 218 incidents. Grievances related to broken promises and government officials ignoring protesters’ grievances risen exponentially since 2010 but still account for less than 10% of total complaints” said Nashira Davids of the Sowetan (http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2012/10/11/the-year-that-anger-boils-over.). With all of these figures in mind, it is easier to understand how dire the situation is. Striking shows that there is a lack of working together between different parties, or that people are unhappy with what they have/have not been given. The fact that more people are striking and protesting now than ever before shows that there is still so much that needs to be addressed in the new South Africa. It is clear that South Africa is in a state of turmoil and that much still needs to change, the people are crying out.