South Africa: Community protest over corruption widens

Authorities deploy heavily armed response

The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) has been leading the community of Ga-Nchabeleng, (in the Fetakgomo municipality of Limpopo) in a major service delivery protest that has broadened into a full scale community strike. Hundreds and hundreds of community members, with the youth and school students of the Socialist Youth Movement (SYM) in the vanguard, have protested daily.

The protest was sparked over ten days ago by the lack of transparency and almost certain corruption surrounding the allocation of former community land handed to the municipality for the development of new Home Affairs offices. The land allocated for the new offices is in the centre of Ga-Nchabeleng, yet offices have sprung-up many kilometres away. The community wants to know who in the municipality authorised this spending; who was awarded the tender; and how the community is meant to access a facility so far away.

Under the leadership of WASP, the community has written a memorandum to the authorities, demanding this situation be addressed but also demanding action of the mass unemployment afflicting the area, the lack of adequate roads, water and sanitation in the community.

The scale of the protests forced not just the municipal authorities but representatives of the Provincial government to meet with the community to discuss their demands. The community rejected proposals for the establishment of a ‘community forum’ given that the community has already established its own democratic structures to coordinate the struggle and represent their interests. This was clearly a delaying tactic and intended to disarm the community with the inclusion of ANC representatives.

In response to this legitimate snub, the authorities deployed a heavily armed and militarised police Special Task Force to the area. These forces must have been mobilised in advance of the meeting with the Provincial government representatives, given the speed of their arrival, showing the dishonest and cynical approach of the ANC. When co-option failed, force was resorted to. Helicopters, water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets were used against protestors. Dozens were arrested, including leading WASP organisers.

But the protests are continuing. The community will not be cowed. The people are sick of unemployment and under-development. In response to the assault, a community strike has been called, with schools closed, roads blocks and businesses closed.

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September 2014