Burning Pretoria


Clc1YfUVAAEammoProtest and flames have erupted in Pretoria on Tuesday the 21st of June as protesters rage against the announcement that the candidate they did not support will be running for mayor of Tshwane under the ANC.

In accordance with SABC’s new policy, the protests are not to be aired. This is apparently to withhold publicity from the protesters so that they will grow up and cease and desist. What it is rather accomplishing is risking the lives of many who will be driving through veritable battlegrounds without being informed by the media, whose prime purpose as a state broadcaster is to protect its viewers through informing them of dangers to their security. It will do nothing to abate these protests – for the protesters cannot grow up. They are stuck in a narrative of violence solving problems and immature whining getting results.

“Protesters in Atteridgeville shouted “no Sputla‚ no vote”‚ and vowed to continue with their actions until the decision to replace current Tshwane mayor Sputla Ramokgopa with Thoko Didiza is reversed.” – Reports TimesLive.

Tshwane Bus Burnt in Protest | Image: Steven Tau
Tshwane bus burnt in protest | Image: Steven Tau

But that’s not how they are acting. When a reasonable individual threatens to not give a party their vote, they just don’t vote for that party. In a democratic system, the loss of votes on mass gives cause to change their practice. But the protesters aren’t just withholding votes. They are burning buses, barricading roads, hurting people, looting and intimidating. Regardless of the merit of their demands (for which there are none; they should just vote for another party), the actions vilify them completely.

So why are they acting like ravenous zombies just because their candidate wasn’t chosen? Why not vote for another party? Or just hurt the ANC cleverly by withholding their vote on election day? Perhaps because they have been taught nothing else. A society wrought from rhetoric of violence, struggle and revolution believes only that violence will accomplish their goals.

For as much as we idolise Mandela’s peaceful transition, the “Struggle” is idolised even more. School children are led to believe that the Sowetan Uprising somehow toppled the Apartheid regime, that the MK was more than just a rabble of ill-trained guerrilla wannabes. The ANC came to power as a revolutionary party, but never undertook its revolution. It fails both sides of the dichotomy as it fails to understand either governance or revolution.

Now the people continue their campaign, through making South Africa ungovernable, just to fulfil their petty desires. This conflict over candidacy is petty. It’s founded in petty tribalism that has no place in a modern society! The ANC’s efforts to harness and strengthen tribalism for their own gains has done nothing but ferment even more conflict. Combined with the belief among many that they can only support the ANC, tribalism creates the battle lines for many internal conflicts within the ruling party.

There is a habit among many South Africans to forgive protesters in the name of “black pain” or because of their class. This is patronising and dangerous. We treat humans alike. And that means that we arrest bus burners, punish murderers and prevent vandalism and violence. Giving protesters a free pass legitimises this form of protest. It encourages more of it.

Tshwane ProtestLike dealing with terrorism, which by definition this falls under, one must not cave in to their demands. One must treat them like the criminals they are. Arrest them, stop them from harming innocents, stop them from destroying the infrastructure that they will next year protest is damaged.

If South Africa is to stop the cycle of violence, it must assert that violent protests are never right and that every grievance has a valid means of solving. Ignorance of that means does not justify threatening to burn people alive and torching public transport.

Until such time as we end this rhetoric of dogmatic demands and violence to achieve it, South Africa will remain on the course of a failed state. The state, the media, academia and individuals need to stand up against these protesters and not give them any sort of satisfaction. Protest must be stricken from our national culture. It doesn’t solve anything but hurting innocents and causing even more problems.

Until then, South Africa will keep burning.