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South Africans rise up against ANC

vast minority | 12.02.2010 16:22 | Repression | Social Struggles | World

ANGRY South Africans rioted this week in protest at the conditions in which they are forced to live.

Coming at the same time as the ANC establishment's celebrations of the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from jail, the uprising exposed the hypocrisy behind the 'new' South Africa.

Reported Pumza Fihlani for the BBC: "Burning tyres litter the streets; every road is blockaded with piles of large rocks, thick black smoke fills the air, the sound of rubber bullets is followed by loud screams - this South African township is alive and its anger is spilling over.

"Siyathemba, near Balfour, is one of more than 10 townships which took part in a spate of protests last year over a lack of basic services such as clean water, electricity and proper housing.

"The African National Congress (ANC) promised to deliver such bare necessities when it came into power in 1994, ending decades of white minority rule.

"Many poor South Africans are starting to lose patience with their government. 'A better life for all,' was the party's slogan at the time and yet today some feel this dream has remained just that. The township's name means 'We (have) hope' in the local Swati language and yet residents here say they have nothing to be hopeful for.

"Some are carrying petrol bombs and large stones and vow to harm anyone who dares to stop them. 'We are sick and tired of waiting,' yells one woman from a crowd that has gathered around me, as I try to speak to them. 'Mandela has been out of jail for 20 years, 20 years and nothing has changed here'."

Media reports suggest that the police have beaten and tortured a number of people while hunting for ‘community leaders' in the area. This may be an early indication of how the ANC plans to deal with grass roots threats to its political hegemony in South Africa.

Writes Frans Cronje, deputy CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relations, on the Politicsweb site: "The level of popular protest against the ANC in black communities is a great embarrassment to the party and the Government.

"To their great relief this dissatisfaction has not yet translated into a significant loss of electoral support for the party although it eventually must.

"It must also have dawned on the ANC that the threat to their political hegemony in South Africa does not come so much from Mrs Zille in Cape Town as from the sense of disillusionment growing in poor and black communities.

"The specific risk being that a grass roots protest movement pulls the political rug out from under current leadership of the ANC. If these assumptions are correct then it is difficult to escape the conclusion that what concerns the State in Balfour is not so much the violence and disorder in the community, but rather that the community is establishing a leadership structure outside of the hegemony of the ANC.

"Today it is twenty years to the day since Mr Mandela walked out of prison. We are left to reflect whether any of his party's supporters thought that they would again see the day when the police broke down their doors in the middle of the night and with threats of violence demanded to know the whereabouts of the ‘community leaders'."

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