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SALGA hosts seminar to discuss Innovative Approaches to Addressing Community Protests in Local Government

Posted: 22 September 2016

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SALGA’s Special Projects Unit on Wednesday, 21 September held a seminar on Community Protests under the theme “Developing Innovative Approaches to Addressing Community Protests in Local Government” at the SALGA National Headquarters in Pretoria.

Among those in attendance were representatives from City of Johannesburg, City of Tshwane, City of Cape Town, National, Provincial and Local Governments, CSOs, FBOs, Academics and representatives from the Private Sector. Executive Management from the Tshwane Metro Police Department were also in attendance.

SALGA recently conducted a study that surveyed its members to determine what local government thought about community protests are. The study found that community protest had a limited relationship to service delivery levels. Communities in areas where service delivery was robust demonstrated a heightened willingness to protest. In areas where there was low levels of service delivery, community protests around services were relationally lower.

The SALGA study examined community protest action from 2010 to 2015 and updated the perceptions local government has of protest action. This study, compared to the prior study, was primarily conducted to determine if local government views of protest action are changing to accommodate new social and political realities.

SALGA’s Municipal Barometer Analyst Justine Steyn said it is difficult for communities to fulfil the criteria required for obtaining permission to gather and protest. Citizens are being criminalised for exercising their democratic right to voice dissent particularly when institutions are unresponsive.
He said the “Back to Basics” Campaign is designed to capacitate local government to reduce the severity of the issues giving rise to protest action. Cooperation and coordination of intergovernmental actions must be improved.

He said Communities should be educated on which service emanates from which government department or sphere of government. This will allow their engagements to be more targeted and assist in ameliorating their frustration.

There is a perceived lack of accountability of local councillors. SALGA locates this in the dynamics of current protest trends in which councillors are intimidated by communities, having their homes and effects vandalised and destroyed by arson.

Another component is that the pressure of councillorship has led to many not standing for second terms resulting in a loss of organisational memory and reducing representation effectiveness. There are instances of corruption and nest feathering but this is not the whole picture.
Municipalities were urged not to treat citizens like planning problem.

 
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