Western Cape most plagued by protests since start of lockdown

Cape Town – The Western Cape has had the most protest actions since the start of the lockdown between March 27 and July 31, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said.

During this period, the Western Cape recorded (33%), followed by Gauteng (27%), KwaZulu-Natal (17%) and the Eastern Cape (15%), ISS said, adding those were the most populous provinces hardest hit by the pandemic.

Researcher for Justice and Violence Prevention Godfrey Mulaudzi said the leading cause of demonstrations was the policing of lockdown restrictions and crime (14%) with a particular focus on gender-based violence.

Mulaudzi said the second most prevalent issue for protesters was labour-related concerns (13%), mainly the supply of protective equipment to staff such as health-care workers. In third place was electricity supply problems, particularly in Gauteng as a result of power outages and restrictions during peak usage times.

“More than three in five protests (62%) were peaceful with no need for police intervention. However, some non-violent actions were met with disproportionate use of force by police.”

He said in Cape Town, water cannons and stun grenades were deployed against restaurant workers protesting peacefully against lockdown rules.

“Given the continuation of lockdown restrictions along with increasingly desperate economic conditions, protests will likely continue to rise.”

Lizette Lancaster, manager for Crime Hub, said the country is caught in myriad corruption scandals linked to politically connected people stealing funds meant to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. “So we can expect to see increasing numbers of angry South Africans taking to the streets to express their disgust at a political elite.”

Lancaster said during the March 27-July 31 lockdown, 511 protests were recorded. A worrying trend is the substantial increase in the number of events over the past few months.

“From March 1 to 26, before the lockdown, there were 42 demonstrations. Between March 27 and April 30 during the strictest lockdown phase, 59 protests were recorded.”

Lancaster said from May 1 to 31, when lockdown was eased slightly, there were 51 protests. Lockdown was further relaxed in June, when 169 events were recorded – an average of six daily. During July, 232 demonstrations took place, an average of eight a day and three times more than what has been recorded historically in July. “It is the highest number ever recorded in a single month since January 2013.”

Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business director Stuart Jones said their report noted protests due to service delivery, housing, Covid-19 concerns, unemployment, schooling, gender based violence and crime while 18% had no clear motive.

Cape Argus

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