Government expressed serious concerns over the violence that accompanied most of the service delivery protests experienced in the past few weeks. Echoing the sentiments of the President, the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Lechesa Tsenoli, condemns the violent nature of public protests in the country which have resulted in the destruction of public and private property and a tragic loss of life.
To this effect, the Department for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs is working with all spheres of government in areas where there are service delivery protests to implement appropriate interventions.South Africa has witnessed a surge in number of local protests about issues of poor or no service delivery, water, housing, sanitation, erratic electricity billing and tariffs and alleged corruption of municipal officials.
The Minister, says that given the complexity of grievances and challenges being experienced, a multi-disciplinary approach is necessary to ensure that the root causes of local protects are resolved. “Government’s position is clear: that we respect the right of citizens’ to protest peacefully as enshrined in the constitution, but violent forms of protests that threaten lives and bring destruction to property are unacceptable” says Minister Tsenoli.
The Minister says the departments and communities need to engage in constructive consultation, public participation and engagement processes on programmes and services that affect citizens. “In order to address the needs of our citizens it is important to strengthen and improve public liaison, consultation and participation with targeted and impactful campaigns. Citizens must be aware of their rights and responsibilities as well as all the mechanisms and channels available to interact with their government and principals by way of using suggestion boxes, complaint hotlines, Thusong Service Centres, public participation activities and other forms” add Tsenoli.
The minister also indicates that South African government has policies and programmes to speed up the delivery of basic services in all communities, especially those most affected by backlogs. The plans, progress made and challenges are not frequently or timeously communicated to citizens at ward level leaving them uninformed and vulnerable. The department intends to strengthen communication and feedback to communities at ward level. Communities should not give up hope as the plans are in place. Communities and citizens have the right to play a major role in shaping the decisions that affect them through the democratic processes.
Tsenoli says there is a need for greater consultation and participation of citizens in information-sharing and local decision-making. Effective communication during the integrated development planning process is critical. Strengthening and expanding the platforms for constructive two way dialogue and interaction between citizens and local government is critical. “We have heard people’s genuine concerns and are working harder to address the issues being raised. However, the message we put forward is that people should engage in a peaceful manner than to resort to violent protests”, concluded Tsenoli.