Unacceptable Methods of Protest Must Be Rejected by All of Us

Cape Times (South Africa), August 3, 2009 | Go to article overview

Unacceptable Methods of Protest Must Be Rejected by All of Us


BYLINE: Zizi Kodwa

Vladimir IIyich Lenin in 1901/2 wrote a political pamphlet, What Is To Be Done, which was inspired by the novel of Nikolai Chernyshevsky with the same name. In this, Lenin analysed the situation in Russia, more than a decade before the October Revolution.

Lenin saw workers losing patience with an oppressive system, with outbursts of desperation and vengeance rather than struggle. This led to antagonism between workers and management, with workers not always conscious of the irreconcilable antagonism of their interests to the economic and political system of the day. He argued that this consciousness could have been brought to workers from without.

I was reminded of this passage following the week of sporadic acts of protests which one of our newspapers described as "the week South Africa burned". This paper even went to the extent of drawing up a map of areas which have been caught in the conflagration that has engulfed the country.

How can people who voted for the ANC a mere three months, ago all of a sudden, and out of the blue, embark upon a Damascian conversion and "revolt" against a movement they returned to power with an almost two thirds majority?

Local government has long been an area of concern to the ANC. It is clear that our people still have great faith in their movement. They, like the workers of Russia before revolution, believe that the system of local government marks what may seem "irreconcilable differences" between them and their elected representatives. They are doing this without rejecting the whole of the post-apartheid political and social system.

The government's own mid-term report released by the Presidency a few years ago has shown, without doubt, that the ANC government has indeed improved the lives of our people, especially the poor. This has covered the areas of education, health and social security services.

However, it should bother us if the very masses now resort to the identical tactics that were so necessary to undermine the system of political oppression that characterise the apartheid years. Are the arson attacks on the community clinics, police station in Marambane or the brazen looting of shops by members of the so-called South African Unemployed People's Movement in Durban the acceptable way in which people unhappy with service delivery should behave? Asking the question differently, how would looting or stealing food from Pick n Pay, Checkers or any other retail shop, provide a job to an unemployed person or deliver much needed services?

These are unacceptable methods of new forms of struggle. They deserve to be rejected by the mass of our people. …

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