The growing number of violent protests in the Eastern Cape is symptomatic of the failure of the ANC-government to deliver services and at the same time take firm action to prevent the violent nature of these protests. On the one hand the ANC-government is failing to deliver services and on the other hand, it is failing to maintain law and order. The government’s inaction in both areas is fuelling the violent nature of these protests.
According to a reply to a legislature question I asked Safety and Liaison MEC Weziwe Tikana, a total of 94 arrests were made in connection with municipal damage to property in 2017/18 and 47 arrests in 2018/19. Only one arrest was made with regard to people burning tyres on municipal roads in 2017/18, in Queenstown, and no such arrests were made in 2018/19. This low number of arrests is not enough to stop the criminal element during service delivery protests, considering that there were 1 745 such incidents in the last three financial years. For the reply, click here:
People have the right to protest.
However, protesters who run riot and burn down property including municipal roads, equipment and buildings to vent their anger must face the consequences of their criminal acts. Only one arrest was made in the past two years for burning tyres on a municipal road, despite the passing of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act being signed into law in December 2015. The heavy sentences that go with this law must be a deterrent against lawlessness. The DA stands firmly for law and order.
On Monday, the main N6-route through Komani was blocked by protesters who were burning tyres on the road and the two community halls were set alight. In Komga, roads were again blocked following on the recent protest action that saw the town hall and a refuse truck set alight. Last week, the N2 highway at Breidbach was on fire once again, due to protest action.
The blocking of roads and destruction of property amounts to a form of economic sabotage. The Eastern Cape has the highest unemployment rate in the country and we cannot afford to have our economy crippled by the strangling of our road networks and infrastructure. People cannot get to work, produce can’t get to markets and tourists bypass these areas. Order must be upheld as this chaos is unfair on all decent, law-abiding citizens.
People who break the law should be criminally charged. The can be no excuse. The South African Police Service must ensure that protests and those responsible for damage to property are recorded in videos and photographs. If necessary, drone-technology can be used.
What we need is a change to ensure that order prevails over chaos. — Bobby Stevenson MPL, Shadow MEC for Safety and Security