In May, Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko announced that Public Order Police (POP) had been called out to some 14,740 incidents related to service delivery protests over 2014/2015, more than double the 7,209 they had to contend with in 2007/2008.
Dr Carin Runciman from the University of Johannesburg told delegates that research she carried out in collaboration with Professor Peter Alexander and Boitumelo Maruping, painted a very different picture. She demonstrated that at least half of these incidents were not protests at all, despite the impression created by the Minister.
Scouring the SAPS’s Incident Registration Information System (IRIS) – only recently made available – Runciman and her colleagues learnt that a high proportion of the incidents recorded in IRIS were in fact recreational, religious and cultural events.
They suggest that the confusion around incidents and protests was created to wring more funding from the state coffers.
Where evidence of protest could be found,the results highlighted that theseare not limited to urban areas, notwithstanding the picture painted in the media. But while proposing ways that IRIS can be refined, the researchers confirmed that the number of protests are rising in South Africa.
“We argue that rising inequality and its impact on the quality of post-apartheid democracy is a key underlying cause of protest,” says Runciman. “This is unsurprising given that a recent report by Stats SA noted that more than half the population (54%) live on less than R779 per person per month.”
For more information about WSSF, go to http://www.wssf2015.org/