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The maladministration of over a billion rands allocated to the Urban Renewal Project by former president Thabo Mbeki has contributed to the continued protests in communities like Bekkersdal.
This was one of the findings of the 2014 Ruth First fellow, Ebrahim Fakir, who presented his research at a colloquium at Wits University yesterday afternoon.
Fakir’s research focused on finding possible reasons for the increase in so-called ‘service delivery protests’ which now average about 300 per year.
Fakir focused on the area of Bekkersdal in Gauteng which has experienced protests since 2002 initially sparked by demarcation issues.
According to Fakir, the community of Bekkersdal questioned where the general development of the Urban Renewal project was because the communities still had no water, electricity and basic infrastructure.
In answering the question of why some protests turn violent, Fakir found that “protests are asking for an alternative form of policies away from neoliberalism”.
“The way in which police act don’t spark protest, but [they] help sustain the protests,” he said.
Prof Jane Duncan, one of the speakers on the panel commented that public protests were telling of the “subjective shift of politics”. She said people were feeling betrayed after being let down by their government.
Professor Noor Nieftegodien, also on the panel, gave a critical analysis of Fakir’s paper and said: “As good as the paper is, it’s very ‘business-as-usual’ in how it approaches protests.”
Nieftegodien felt that Fakir underestimated the extent of politics in those communities and recommended that Fakir should have given attention to the young people or older women of the community. He said it was difficult to differentiate between the people of the community.