It Is Ironic Services Are Destroyed in the Name of Service Delivery Protests

Cape Times (South Africa), November 23, 2010 | Go to article overview

It Is Ironic Services Are Destroyed in the Name of Service Delivery Protests


BYLINE: Helen Zille

Anyone who follows the news will have read and heard about the recent series of "service delivery protests" around the country, including in the Western Cape.

Most casual observers believe these protests signal a groundswell of dissatisfaction with "service delivery" - because that is how they have been reported in the press.

Sometimes this is true. But sometimes it isn't. Each "service delivery" protest takes place in a specific context, and is driven by different agendas. Last week, three vehicles were burnt during a so-called "service delivery" protest in Khayelitsha.

Ironically, each of these vehicles was busy delivering a service to the community. One was delivering matric exam scripts to the marking centre. Another was fetching disabled people. A third was transporting children to a camp for abused children. The fourth vehicle escaped the blaze, but was stoned. It was an ambulance responding to an emergency call in the community.

It is beyond irony that services are destroyed in the name of service delivery protests.

In the television footage of these protests, further evidence of service delivery to the area was abundantly clear: tarred roads, storm water systems and overhead electricity wires.

And in Khayelitsha's TR section (from which most of the protesters allegedly came) construction workers were being prevented from going on site to build houses the people were supposedly demanding.

In a nearby settlement, where an electricity sub-station was recently built, the local community is refusing to allow the electricity servitude to cross their land, thus preventing the city from supplying electricity to the surrounding shack settlements.

Service delivery is by no means perfect in Khayelitsha. But one thing is certain: there would be far more of it, if it were not for "service delivery protests". Various forms of community conflict are the main reason that delivery is held up for years. That is one of the key reasons why it is far easier and much quicker to build a stadium than upgrade an informal settlement.

The latter is wracked by community conflict, which usually turns violent, about who should benefit, who should move to make way for installation of underground services, who should get work on the project etc.

And every time there is a so-called "service delivery" protest in an area, more resources are used up to prevent wanton injury and crime caused by people with other agendas.

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