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Qualitative evidence of municipal service delivery protests implications for south africa


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Paper presented at the 2nd Annual Conference on Qualitative Research for Policy Making, 26 & 27 May 2011, Belfast, UK.

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Qualitative evidence of municipal service delivery protests implications for south africa

  1. 1. This paper is part of the proceedings of the 2ndAnnual conference on Qualitative Research for Policy Making, 26 & 27 May 2011, BelfastQualitative evidence of municipal service delivery protests: implications for South Africa Zacheus Matebesi Department of Sociology/Centre for Development Support UNIVERSITY OF THE FREE STATE P.O. Box 339 Bloemfontein, 9300 SOUTH AFRICA Tel: +2751 4012590 Fax: +2751 4013518 MAY 2011 80
  2. 2. CONTENTSABSTRACT…………………………………………………………………………………..31. Introduction.......................................................................................................................32. Overview of Local Government in South Africa...............................................................53. Demarcation and participation: some conceptual issues....................................................63.1 Partocipatory governance...................................................................................................73.2 Cross-boundary municipality.............................................................................................73.3 Demarcation process..........................................................................................................84. Methodology......................................................................................................................85. Reasons fo protests..........................................................................................................105.1 Structural reasons for the protests....................................................................................105.2 Systemic reasons..............................................................................................................115.2.1 Poor governance.........................................................................................................115.2.2 Individual political struggles......................................................................................125.2.3 Complaint management and communication.............................................................135.3 Provincial cross-boundary municipal issues - Gauteng case study..................................146. Impacts of the protests......................................................................................................176.1 Damage to public infrastructure.......................................................................................176.2 Economic impact..............................................................................................................176.3 Impacts on the education system......................................................................................187. Lessons and recommendations.........................................................................................18REFERENCES.........................................................................................................................19 81
  3. 3. AbstractSocial protests in South Africa were to a large degree responsible for making the formerblack townships ungovernable. In 2004, a decade since the advent of the new politicaldispensation, South Africa witnessed unrest of significant proportions at local governmentlevel. This occurred despite the emphasis on good municipal governance by the nationalgovernment. The lack of capacity to deliver on mandates, together with factors such asindividual political struggles, poor communication and ineffective client interface, are keycontributors to the surge in violent protests.This study was conducted in four cities from three different provinces in South Africa. Themain aim of the study was to identify the reasons for the violent protests and policyimplications. Methodologically, this entailed 100 in-depth interviews with communityleaders, councillors and municipal and provincial government officials. More than 300community members (both protestors and non-protestors) were interviewed by of focusgroups discussions. This qualitative study is useful to policy makers and planners at allspheres of government, including security services because it not only identified the reasonsfor the protests, but also identified early warning signals and various lessons on how toprevent or manage these events in future. 1. IntroductionDuring the apartheid-era in South Africa, social protests against the political system used tobe widespread (Atkinson, 2007). These protests, together with the popular mobilisation fordemocracy, were led by the banned African National Congress (ANC) and its ally theCongress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); the South African National CivicsOrganisation (SANCO), and the United Democratic Movement (UDF) (Narsiah and Maharaj,1994).Despite the transition to a democratic political system 17 years ago, social protests has beenrecurrent in South Africa. For those familiar with the popular protests in apartheid “it mightappear as if the rolling mass action of the end-of-apartheid period had simply continued intothe dawn of a democratic government in South Africa (Atkinson, 2007). Data presented in 82
  4. 4. Figure 1 below provide some indication of the scale of the protest movement. There has beenno less than 285 service delivery protests between 2004 and October 2010. The years, 2005,2007, 2009 and 2010 were particularly worrisome for the South African government becausethe most number of protests occurred during these times (Municipal IQ, 2009; SABC NewsResearch, 2011). Figure 1: Number of service delivery protests (January 2004 to October 2010) 96 100 83 80 60 35 32 40 27 20 10 2 0 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010Source: Municipal IQ, 2009; SABC News Research, 2011.A myriad of factors triggering some of the protests identified in studies include lack ofcapacity to deliver services at local government level, poverty and unemployment, individualpolitical struggles and the erosion of public confidence in government leadership (Ballard,Habib & Valodia, 2006; Desai, 2002, Mandlingozi, 2007, Marais et al., 2008). Themultiplicity of factors at the root of the current protests can best be placed into three broadcategories: systemic (such as maladministration, fraud, nepotism and corruption in housinglists); structural (such as healthcare, unemployment, and land issues); and governance (suchas weak leadership and the erosion of public confidence in leadership)” (Parliament of RSA,2009).Participatory governance, as Friedman (2006: 1) rightfully states, ‘has been a canon ofgovernance thinking in the new democracy [in South Africa], for it has strong roots in thefight against apartheid’. In fact, a number of commentators (Edigheji 2004; Friedman 2006;Papadikis 2005; Thompson 2007) also concurred that participatory governance andaccountability arrangements in South Africa are generally regarded as world-class examples 83
  5. 5. of good practice. Scholarly contributions have emphasised the importance not only of theexistence of public participation in governance, but also of the extent and meaningfulness ofparticipation (Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) 2007: 6;Friedman 2006: 3; Marais et al., 2008). Despite such noble sentiments, examples ofgenuinely effective participation by all relevant stakeholders are still the exception rather thanthe rule (United Nations 2008: 1.2).Broadly, Butler’s (2008) assessment of the ANC government’s performance since the firstdemocratic election in 1994 illustrates how the South African government has struggled tostrike a balance between political and economic development. He further that the SouthAfrican government’s failure in meeting the basic services needs of the poor, especially interms of housing, education, electricity and water, limits attempts at achieving sufficienteconomic redress and, thus contributes to the violent social protests one can contend. Thispaper first provides an overview of local government in South Africa. This is followed by asynoptic description of the methodologically followed. 2. Overview of Local Government in South AfricaThe Constitution of South Africa (1996) establishes local governemnt as a distinctive sphereof government, which is interdependent, and inter-realated with national and provincialspheres of government. Local government is reagrded as the sphere of government ‘closest tothe people.’During the aprtheid years, there were four (4) administrations, 10 Bantustans andmore than 800 racially-segregated local authorities. The National and Provincial Governmentcame into effect in 1994 after the adoption of the Transitional Constitution of South Africa.The new Local Government was inaugarated much later on 5 December 2000, with thealmagamation of the 800 racially-segregated municipalities were amalgamated andreconstituted to 284 (SABC Research News, 2011).According to the White Paper on Local Government 1998, the core Constitutional ideals andmandate entrusted to local government (Section 152) are: • to provide democratic and accountable government for local communities; • to ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner; 84
  6. 6. • to peomote social and economic development; • to promote a safe and healthy environment; and • to encourage the involvement of communities and community organisations in the matters of local government.The transformation of local government has probably been the largest undertaking within theentire democratic governance transformation process since 1994. Enormous progress hasbeen made but much still needs to be achieved before all 283 municipalities are fullyfunctional, effective, efficient, responsive and sustainable. A number of “stubborn” servicedelivery and governance problems have been identified in municipalities over a number ofyears and remain consistently at the forefront of government’s developmental challenges.These priority areas according to COGTA (2009) include: • Huge service delivery and backlog challenges, e.g. housing, water and • sanitation; • Poor communication and accountability relationships with communities; • Problems with the political administrative interface; • Corruption and fraud; • Poor financial management, e.g. negative audit opinions; • Number of (violent) service delivery protests; • Weak civil society formations; • Intra - and inter-political party issues negatively affecting governance and delivery; and • Insufficient municipal capacity due to lack of scarce skills. 3. Demarcation and participation: some conceptual issuesThis section of the paper clarifies several concepts used in this article. First, the concept of‘participatory governance’ is defined, followed by a description of the concept of ‘cross-boundary municipality’. A brief description of the role of the demarcation process is alsoprovided. 85
  7. 7. 3.1 Participatory governanceParticipatory governance, as employed in this article, is defined as a set of structural andprocedural requirements to realise public participation in the operation of provincial and localgovernments. It also refers to a regulatory framework in which the task of running publicaffairs is not only entrusted to both government and public administration, but furtherinvolves cooperation between state institutions and civil society groups (Friedman 2006). Theterm goes beyond the public management ‘to a more fundamental question of how theprocesses of democracy (citizen involvement, decision-making, procedures andadministrative function) can be adapted to help countries resolve the complex public issueswith which they are challenged’ (Lovan, Murray and Schaffer 2004: xv).Participatory governance is expected to empower people (Osmani 2008: 36), but it is onlythrough the use of effective tools that it can yield benefits in terms of efficiency, equity andresponsiveness of policies by giving a sense of ownership to the citizens, by allocatingresources according to citizens’ priorities, needs and preferences, and by utilising their skillsand knowledge (Yemek 2007).3.2 Cross-boundary municipalityBoundaries have very important political, financial and social effects, because they determinewhat each municipality is responsible for, and where. The Constitution and the LocalGovernment Municipal Structures Act, 117 of 1998, of the Republic of South Africa madeprovision for an Act of Parliament to authorise the establishment of a cross-boundarymunicipality. The Municipal Demarcation Board, after initial research, noted that there are anumber of areas in South Africa where large tracts of land, including a number of differentcommunities and settlements, straddle provincial boundaries.A cross-boundary municipality refers to a situation where parts of a local municipality arelocated within the borders of two different provinces. For example, in the case of Merafong,the smaller part in the south was located in North West Province and the larger part in theeast was located in Gauteng Province. This in effect meant that the governance of thesemunicipalities was a shared political and fiscal responsibility of two different provinces. 86
  8. 8. Since the establishment of cross-boundary municipalities, numerous problems have beenexperienced with the administration of these areas.One of the main challenges experienced with the administration of these areas was the day-to-day management of the cross-boundary municipalities (Naidoo 2007). This geo-politicalarrangement meant that a matter such a local government project in one municipality, forexample, had to be subjected to a tedious, labour-intensive and bureaucratic process ofconsultation between the local government concerned and principals of the local governmentdepartments at provincial sphere. According to the GCIS (2006), this process greatly affectedand ultimately constrained the execution of the provincial department of local government’smandate in terms of the cross-boundary municipalities. This affected communities negatively,as government was not able to effectively deliver services.3.3 Demarcation processThe participation of communities and stakeholders in the demarcation process is important, toensure that the Demarcation Board considers all the different views people have aboutboundaries. The demarcation process is governed by three different pieces of legislationwhich all relate to each other. These are the Constitution, the Municipal Demarcation Act andthe Municipal Structures Act (1998).According to the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG 2008),communities can be involved in the demarcation process in three ways: • Members of communities may respond to invitations by the Board to submit written representations on how boundaries in their area should be drawn; • If the Demarcation Board decides to hold a public meeting to discuss boundaries, members of the public can air their views; • Any member of a community can object to the demarcation of a municipal boundary or the delimitation of a ward. The Board must take account of the objection and respond to the person. It is the responsibility of municipalities to ensure that all community members participate, particularly people who are illiterate or who cannot transport themselves to a public meeting. 87
  9. 9. 4. MethodologyThe overall study design was descriptive and explanatory, but also directed towardsrecommending interventions at both policy and practice levels. The main aim of the studywas to identify the reasons for the violent protests and policy implications. Methodologically,this paper is based on three interlinked approaches: • First, an extensive media and literature scan was conducted. Although most of the media reports were relatively superficial as they focused on the narrative of the unrest without any real background analysis, they proved to be pivotal in piecing together the chronology of events, as they unfolded in the case studies. In respect of scholarly papers concerning the social protests, very little is available, except for the growing number of papers on post-apartheid social movements in South Africa. • The second methodological dimension of the study involved in-depth interviews conducted with community leaders; councillors; ex-councillors; protest leaders; business people; officials (both provincial and local); and the police. About 100 in- depth interviews were conducted. • The third methodological tool was a series of focus group meetings held with community members. Two of these meetings were conducted with the leaders of the protests. Three focus group meetings were also held with ordinary citizens who had not participated in the protests. Focus groups generally consisted of from ten to 16 participants. In all, approximately 300 people participated in the focus group discussions.In addition to the main methodological approaches, three further activities should bementioned. The research process started off with workshops in the case study areas. The aimof the workshops was to inform the relevant role players about the research and afford themthe opportunity to influence the main methodological approaches. After the completion of theempirical study, feedback workshops were also conducted. On this occasion the findings ofthe research were shared with those present. Finally, comments and suggestions receivedfrom these reviewers were incorporated, where appropriate, into the final report. 88
  10. 10. All four of these case studies were conducted between 2007 and early 2010 and was fundedby the Conflict and Governance Facility (CAGE). In Khutsong1 the conflict is about thedemarcation of the boundary between the North-West Province and Gauteng. Nevertheless,the Khutsong study is particularly instructive where it comes to deriving lessons concerningthe appropriate handling of local conflicts. 5. Reasons for the protestsThis section aims to assess the reasons for the protests. In general, the protests were regardedas having been sparked off by deficient service-delivery. However, in this section I shall tryto analyse the reasons behind poor service delivery. Notably, not all the reasons pertained inall four of the case study sites. It was, however, various configurations of these factors thatcontributed to the protests. The sections begin with a discussion of the reasons for the unrestin the four localities. This is followed by an analysis of the impacts of the unrest and, finally,the lessons to be derived from the case studies are discussed.5.1 Structural reasons for the protestsThere is a body of literature that suggests that structural reasons are the fundamental sourceof social protests. Six of these structural reasons are highlighted below.First, socio-economic conditions such as poverty, unemployment and poor living conditionscontributed to the violent protests.Second, the lack of economies of scale in small towns in respect of infrastructure investmentshould be acknowledged as a contributing reason. The capital expenditure, along with the1 Khutsong, which ironically means place of peace, has been engulfed in violent protests since the government passed this controversial cross-boundary municipality legislation. This black town formed part of the Merafong Local Municipality in Gauteng Province until it was incorporated into the North West Province (Bernstein and Johnston 2007: 144). The agenda of the cross-boundary municipalities – of which there were 16 in five of South Africa’s provinces – has been the focus of the Municipal Demarcation Board for the past few years. Since the establishment of these municipalities, numerous problems have been experienced in respect of administering them. Several attempts at resolving the identified issues have largely failed. In an attempt to ensure that in future these 16 municipalities would individually be located in one province only, whereby, ultimately, a more effectively integrated provision of services could be achieved, the Constitution Twelfth Amendment Bill was adopted in 2005. 89
  11. 11. pressure on basic infrastructure that results from the need for maintenance in small towns, isfairly high in relation to the number of people serviced by the municipalities in the four areas.A third contributing factor linked to the foregoing reason is rural–urban migration. Large-scale urbanisation of former farm workers has placed tremendous pressure on the provisionof basic service. For instance one senior municipal official remarked: “The deterioration ofstreet, electricity and sewerage networks was compounded by an influx of people who hadbeen evicted from farms.”A fourth factor cited by leaders from the coloured communities, is the legacy of apartheid,which divided many neighbourhoods into racial camps and which, to a large extent, stillprevails today.The fifth reason relates to the amalgamation of municipalities that has exerted hugeinstitutional pressure on local municipalities and inhibited them from efficiently performingtheir normal service delivery and maintenance duties. In the case of the Nelson Mandela BayMetro, three towns/cities constitute the newly amalgamated Metro. It has taken several yearsto resolve and synchronise the administrative system, created from the separateadministrations. More than eight years ago, small-town research has already indicated that theamalgamation of municipalities has had a negative impact on local economic development inthose towns not designated as the headquarters of these municipalities (Atkinson 2002).Finally, considering the fact that young people were at the forefront of the protests in theformer black townships, these protests probably, to some degree, had a bearing on issues ofyouth development. One respondent at a focus-group meeting remarked, ‘If the municipalitycan become serious about youth development, I will not take to [the] streets again. I onceasked the then mayor to get us someone [to] act as a mentor for young aspiring entrepreneurs.Most young people struggle to write business proposals …’5.2 Systemic reasonsAlthough the structural causes already discussed cannot be ignored, a number of systemicreasons for the municipal protests should also be considered 90
  12. 12. 5.2.1 Poor governance“Governance” refers to the ability of institutions to take decisions. In the cases under review, poorgovernance contributed markedly to the protests. For example, the fact that the PhumelelaCouncil (in the Free State Province) did not meet for long periods of time resulted in a completelack of basic decision making and direction. This left the Municipal Manager and the municipalofficials rudderless and had the effect of hampering service delivery which contributed to theconflict and protest. In the case of the Nelson Mandela Metro, it took years for its draft IntegratedDevelopment Plan (IDP)2 to be accepted.5.2.2 Individual political strugglesIn most of the case studies there was evidence of political in-fighting. In the two case studiesin the Free State Province some of these struggles were between local factions, whereasothers seemed to emanate more from provincial level. In the Gauteng and Eastern Capemunicipalities there was evidence of deep ideological divisions within the tri-party alliance3.The protest in Free State case studies is an example of how protesters, pursuing an agendathat involved getting rid of a certain councillor, managed to force the issue via recourse toviolence.7 There was no compelling evidence for any of the allegations made against thecouncillor in question. Despite their inability to prove their case, the protesters were able tocapitalize on the rupture in communication lines between the councillor and the community,and this helped ensure that via their protest actions the councillor was finally compelled toresign. The fact that many of these upheavals occurred within the twelve months prior to thelocal government elections furnishes further evidence of political jockeying for position.The nature of leadership in post-apartheid South African towns remains complex andobscure, and it will require a great deal more qualitative research for the dynamics of this to2 In terms of Chapter V of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 2000 (No 32 of 2000), local government bodies are required to formulate and implement Integrated Development Plans (“IDPs”) for their respective areas of jurisdiction. These IDPs are meant to deal with all developmental and planning related issues for a period of five years. The main objective in formulating IDPs is: “To guide implementation oriented planning which is strategic and consultative and is integrated requiring holistic thinking across the conventional sectoral boundaries”. Specifically the IDP is to guide decisions in respect of the Municipal budget, improve spatial management, promote local economic development and at the same time ensure effective institutional transformation in a consultative, systematic and with strategic interventions (Government Gazette no 21776, 2000).3 This refers to the alliance between the ruling African National Congress, South African Communist Party and the labor federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions. 91
  13. 13. be fully understood. Firstly, the party political structures within affected communities havehad to develop a mode of response to this leadership style, and to the growing level of publicgrievances that it has precipitated. But there seem to be no formal mechanisms to deal withsuch cases within most of the political parties. Secondly, this type of leader has unwittinglycreated an ethos of counter-leadership within communities. As public frustration with poorservice delivery mounts, and people attempt to find responsive communication channels tovent their grievances, the attitude of delinquent councillors often becomes increasinglyoffensive.5.2.3 Complaint management and communicationAtkinson (2006 and 2007) has outlined the inability of municipal government to beappropriately responsive to the needs of municipal residents. The lack of a complaintmanagement system and the inability to create open communication channels (and thus, theinability to listen) were probably the main factors that triggered the protests. Numerousinterviewees mentioned that their complaints had neither been listened to nor been addressedadequately. One of the focus groups summarised the situation: ‘After four years ofcomplaints and frustration, residents may believe that the only effective way to achieve [asolution] is through violence and confrontation … but listen, this is not born out of a desire tobe violent. Instead, it is born out of [the] belief that nothing will significantly changeexclusively through non-violence and appeasement …’ The complaints voiced by residentsduring the focus groups can be categorised in terms of three overall issues: politicians/officials who do not wish to listen to complaints; the arrogance of many politicians/officials;and the inability to communicate effectively.The following statements by interviewees reflect the perceived inability of officials to listento reasonable demands of ordinary people: Maybe they [officials and councillors] did not worry because they were still getting paid. They subscribed to the notion that their actions are not to be questioned. In this age of democracy and civilisation, it is a surprise that officials expect us … to accept their behaviour without question. The community has complained many times to the councillor, but he was so arrogant he could not even listen to them. He was arrogant and he abused his 92
  14. 14. powers; as a councillor he had to go because he was the one standing between service delivery and the community. We complained to our ward Councillor, but he was never helpful. It was decided that no one should vote for the councillor during the forthcoming elections. This particular councillor acted like a prima donna. He never listened to the people. One of the main factors that, perhaps, could have stopped the unrests, was the removal of one corrupt councillor. We were challenged to provide proof of the corrupt practices of this councillor, which we did. We knew that no one can just be dismissed, but our leaders decided to protect this man. The community felt that the ANC was protecting corrupt officials at their expense.5.3 Provincial cross-boundary municipal issues – Gauteng case studyThis section highlights the confusing demarcation process by means of a literature review andempirical findings. In terms of the latter findings about public involvement in the case study,it offers a comprehensive presentation of the reasons for the violent protests in the Gautengcase study (Botes et al. 2007; Marais et al. 2008). This case study illustrates how howparticipatory governance could go wrong (from a social engineering perspective), but equallyimportantly, how it could thrive for civil society. While participatory governance is regardedas a tenet of governance thinking in the new democratic South Africa, the Merafong CityLocal Municipality demarcation process is a classic example of the weakness of participatorygovernance efforts. In this regard, the following two arguments hold: first, it is argued thatthe sequence of events, decisions and communications intended to give effect to theincorporation of Merafong City Local Municipality into the North West province were bothconfusing and haphazardly executed (see Table 1 below). Second, it is argued that publicinvolvement was not effective and that, to some extent, served largely to grant legitimacy to apredetermined policy agenda.Table 1: Trail of governance activities/decisions about Merafong Date Activity/Decision Preference for provinceThe year 2000 Merafong City Local Municipality was established within the West Rand District Municipality19 August 2005 Government Gazette No. 27937 North West 93
  15. 15. 29 August 2005 Government Gazette No. 27962 North West18-20 November Written memoranda directed to the Gauteng Gauteng2005 Provincial Legislature, as well as to the NCOP and other governmental role-players21 November 2005 Municipal Demarcation Board (Government Gazette North West 28236)25 November 2005 Joint Public Hearing (Gauteng and North West Gauteng Provincial Legislatures)29 November 2005 Local Government Portfolio Committee, Gauteng Gauteng Legislature14 December 2005 National Council of Provinces North West19 March 2009 National Council of Provinces GautengThe following were comments of some stakeholders supporting the unrest: It was never decided to riot, but we got the message from our leaders that we cannot allow a government we voted for to take us for granted. Immediately after the announcement in Pretoria, we rushed into the streets and hurled stones, in fact anything that we could lay our hands on, at the police. The police reacted by firing rubber bullets at us. It was then that we decided to target the houses of councillors. I did not care what will happen to me, but I was prepared to sacrifice my life for a good cause, to die for my parents who are now suffering at the hands of a so-called democratic governmenSome other important reasons for the conflict are the following: • History of settlement-uncertainty in Khutsong due to dolomitic condition of the landDue to the geological make-up of the residential land in Khutsong (i.e. predominantlydolomite formation) the Merafong City Local Municipal councilors and officialscommunicated since 2000 to the residents of Khutsong that many of them in the larger part ofKhutsong should be re-located due to the possible dangers of house slumping and housesubsiding. Before the unrest one of the major challenges was the unstable land. This is a dolomite area. 90% of the land in Khutsong has scientifically been declared unfit for human settlement due to the dolomitic condition of the land. We often encounter sinkholes which lead to pipe bursts. From time to time we have to re- route water pipes. This affects the municipality’s budget. We embarked on a process to declare Khutsong a disaster area and a Presidential project. 94
  16. 16. According to community members and leaders of the protests, the dolomite issue is just aploy from the mining companies not to invest in Khutsong. Questions were also raised aboutwhy only townships are often regarded as dolomitic. The confusion among residents aboutthe dolomitic condition of the area seems to be exacerbated by the activities of themunicipality and individual councillors which contradict what they state in public: I agree that the mayor did inform the community about the unstable condition of the land in Khutsong. But while they preach about the dolomitic nature of the land, one local councillor extended his house. Is that not sending out the wrong signals that we are taken for granted? A road construction project was also awarded to a Welkom company. The owner of the company is regarded as a ‘Mandela from the Free State.’ Why are these infrastructural projects allowed to continue when our officials know that they ultimately want to resettle the community? The roads here resemble swimming pools…i This dolomite thing is nothing, but modernised slavery. The mines do not want to contribute anything to the development of Khutsong. The municipality want to relocate people to a place which was also regarded as being dolomitic. How do you understand? If this is true, why are they taking so long to come up with a solution?ii • History of cross border arrangementsFrom the beginning of the cross border arrangement, administratively it places a huge burdenon the Local Municipality of Merafong City to report to two provinces. From 2002 problemsof communicating and reporting lines started to resurface but this was handled through trialand error. Different stakeholders indicated that the issue of demarcation is a long standingone. • Unilateral decisions regarding cross-border arrangements without proper communication and buy-in on the ground/Political decisions taken at national level without considering local opinions and conditions sufficientlyIf one follows the paper trail of notices in the Government Gazettes there are quite clearlysome conflicting decisions and communiques that caused confusion at grass roots level.Community stakeholders also indicated that the national government was not sensitive totheir specific request and that the reasons for this decision were not communicatedsatisfactory: It was never decided to riot, but as we got the message from our leaders that we will finally become part of North West Province, we told ourselves not to allow a 95
  17. 17. government we voted for, in the first place, to take us for granted. Immediately after the announcement, we rushed to the streets and hurled stones at or anything else we could lay our hands on, at the police. The police reacted by firing rubber bullets at us. It was then that we decided to target the houses of councillors. I did not care what will happen to me, but I was prepared to sacrifice my life for a good cause, to die for my parents who are now suffering at the hands of a so-called democratic government.One of the major flaws in respect of the demarcation seems to be the manner in which thecommunity was informed about the decision: Residents were not consulted. The few that were allegedly consulted cannot be equated with the rest of the community. The mayor was always diplomatic in his interaction and dealings with the community. He approached the Faith-based Forum which consists of the pastors of all major denominations in Khutsong about the issue. We later realised that the ploy was for us to spread the news during our sermons that Merafong will remain as part of GP. Some pastors began to label the mayor as a sell-out and refused to interact with him.iii We were sold out by our mayor, the most unpopular mayor in South Africa. He, together with all the councillors knew that Merafong would ultimately be incorporated into North West, but they decided to keep quiet about it. The majority of us here [in Khutsong] were ANC members, but our party betrayed us. Minister Mufamadi and the provincial government delayed to inform us. Information leaked to us that the ANC was pushing for our incorporation into North West. In fact, this demarcation monster has been there for a long time, why the community was not consulted earlier still baffle our minds. The first time they made contact with the community was merely to inform us, and not to consultiv. 6. Impacts of protestsAlthough the protests were not wholly negative, there were a number of destructive impacts.6.1 Damage to public infrastructureThe impacts of the unrest were experienced, first and foremost, in terms of the destruction ofpublic and private infrastructure. The burning (or attempt to do so) of vehicles, libraries andcouncillor housing, was a widespread feature of the protests. By the end of 2009, theKhutsong upheavals had cost an estimated of USD 10 million. Damage to private propertyalone was estimated at USD 2.5 million. 96
  18. 18. 6.2 Economic impactsThe economic impact of the protests varied from place to place. In most cases the economicimpact on businesses in the predominantly black townships was more severe than in thetraditionally white areas. The main reason for this was that many of these areas were barricadedand nobody was allowed in. Towards the end of 2008 Eskom (the electricity supplier in SouthAfrica) was providing power to 126 Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) inKhutsong. By June 2009, they were providing electricity to only 35 of these enterprises. Largerenterprises were also affected in that workers were not allowed to leave the townships. In the FreeState, a small town (Hennenman) estimated a daily loss to the economy of USD 35,678.25as aresult of the protests there. A further impact was that many of the protests degenerated into thelooting of ‘foreign-owned’ shops.6.3 Impacts on the education systemOne of the short-term impacts was that schools were disrupted as many pupils were in the forefront ofthe protests. The matric pass rate for Port Elizabeth (the Eastern Cape case study) decreased by 8%from 75.8% to 67.8% during the year of the protest. Although it is not clear to what extent this can beascribed to the conflicts in Port Elizabeth. At the same time however, the pass rate for the province asa whole increased from 53.5% to 59.3% during the same period, thereby suggesting that at least oneof the factors responsible for the decrease in performance in Port Elizabeth could be the protests.Education in all the case study sites was seriously disrupted by the protests. In Khutsong,schooling was disrupted sporadically for almost three years. 7. Lessons learned and recommendationsThis article has attempted to assess the municipal, service-related unrest experienced in SouthAfrica, and, more specifically, in the Free State, Gauteng and Eastern Cape provinces. Thissection briefly reflects on the lessons learned.Firstly, was sometimes speculated that the presence of the media, and most especiallytelevision cameras, had the effect of artificially fuelling the protests. It seems as if playing upfor the camera is an expression of the desire to ‘become someone’. The media shouldarguably be more sensitive to their potential role in fanning the flames of these protests.Although the sensationalising nature of media coverage is a difficult area on which to make 97
  19. 19. pronouncements, there is a great need for proper investigative journalism which can uncoverthe causes of the protests, and fairly convey all the protagonists’ points of view.Secondly, is the point that political or legal coercion does not minimise conflict. Two of thecase studies showed that political coercion and legislative directions do not contribute toconflict resolution. In the case of Khutsong, the conflict was not alleviated by theredemarcation being confirmed by parliament. Attempts in Phomolong to dampen the conflictby demanding legally sound evidence of the allegations against the councillor, provedfruitless. Although no such evidence could be produced this did nothing to quell the unrest.Thirdly, the government needs to rethink development approaches in small towns. Two of thecase studies were derived from small towns and it needs to be more fully realized that manypolicies, some of them essentially good policies, nonetheless have negative impacts on smalltown environments. Small towns might also find it increasingly difficult to attract qualifiedmunicipal staff. The fact that the National Spatial Development Perspective (NSDP)designates some of these areas as being without much economic potential may also tend toreinforce a perception of regional inferiority, or purposive neglect, entertained bygovernment.Finally in terms of the Khutsong case study, an in-depth socio-political analysis of cross-boundarydisputes may prevent the often violent outbursts that accompany such disputes. Again, there is aneed for more multicase-oriented studies, in that the current literature on provincial boundarydisputes has a single-case orientation. According to Mavungu (2007), a single-case study limits theunderstanding of the structural and systemic factors that cause and shape such clashes.ReferencesAtkinson, D. 2007. Taking to the streets: has developmental local government failed in South Africa? In State of the nation: South Africa 2007, ed. S. Buhlungu, J. Daniel, R. Southall, and J. Lutchman. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).Ballard, R., Habib, A & Valodia, I (eds). 2006. Voices of protest: social movements in post-apartheid South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.Castells, M. 1983. The city and the grassroots: a cross-cultural theory of urban social movements. Berkeley: University of California Press.Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. 2006. The people shall govern: A research report on public participation in policy processes. Johannesburg. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. 98
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  21. 21. Thompson, L. ed. 2007. Participatory governance: Citizens and the state in South Africa. Belville: University of the Western Cape.United Nations. 2007. Towards Participatory and Transparent Governance: Reinventing Government. New York: United Nations.Von Holdt, K. 2010. Nationalism, bureaucracy and the developmental state: the South African case. South African Review of Sociology, 41(1): 4-27.i Interview with leader of the protests,ii Interview with involved resident,iii Interview with community leader.iv Interview with protest leader 100