South Africa’s government will crack down on violent protests which erupted this week over delivery of basic services, a cabinet minister said on Thursday,
Police fired rubber bullets and teargas on Wednesday at township rioters demanding better services and more jobs, in one of the biggest challenges to President Jacob Zuma since he took office in May. Scores have been arrested.
Handling the crisis will be a major test for Zuma, who pledged to do more to help the poor as the main plank of the ruling ANC’s election manifesto but is constrained by financial woes in Africa’s biggest economy.
“We are not going to allow anybody (to) use illegal means to achieve their objectives. We are saying this is a government that has been elected democratically, anything that is done must be done within the law and the constitution,” Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka said on Talk Radio 702.
Police said calm had returned to Siyathemba township, southeast of Johannesburg, after four days of unrest. The violence in flashpoint Siyathemba and other townships increased uncertainty after a series of strikes.
The unrest, with scenes reminiscent of violence against foreigners last year that killed 62 people, also undermined South Africa’s hope of showing a positive image less than a year before the country hosts the soccer World Cup.
Tough police measures could further alienate residents of grim townships, glaring reminders of decades of apartheid when youths also burned tyres and barricaded streets in rage.
And the government is limited by South Africa’s first recession in 17 years, as a result of the global crisis, and is wary of any policies that might discourage local or foreign investment.
The rising tensions in the townships have revived memories of xenophobic attacks on foreigners last year in which more than 60 people died.
The latest protests over service delivery come less than 100 days after Jacob Zuma took office as president, following a resounding election victory for the governing African National Congress (ANC).
They are a reminder of the impatience felt in the most deprived areas of the country
On Tuesday, police cars were stoned in Thokoza near Johannesburg during a demonstration about living conditions that turned violent.
SOURCED FROM REUTERS