Our Opinion: Leadership of silence

ON FIRE: Shacks burn down on Tuesday January 22, 2013, in Sasolburg. Government’s announcement of its intention to merge municipal systems in the Free State sparked outrage in locals, leading to chaotic protests. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Our government just never learns. 

Even though many areas around the country have been rocked by service delivery protests in the past few years, we still do not know how to respond swiftly in dealing with these riots.
As you read your newspaper this morning, please say a prayer for the six families who are mourning the death of their loved ones following yet another week of violent protests. It is alleged they were killed by police during the riots in Sasolburg, which started on Sunday.

Angry protesters from Zamdela township blocked roads coming into their area with burning tyres and stones and squared off against the police. On Tuesday they unsuccessfully tried to burn down the local police station. They damaged police vehicles and smashed the station’s windows. Delivery trucks were set alight and shops looted.
The protests were sparked by proposed plans to merge Sasolburg with the Ngwathe local municipality. Residents fearing a reduction in service levels reject these plans.

While we understand the unhappiness and opposition to the demarcation proposal, the unrelenting violence that has accompanied the protests was unnecessary and disturbing. The community could have raised its objections without looting and destroying property.
In the past we have used this space to call on our government to act quickly in situations like this and nip this violent behaviour in the bud.

Sadly our government has again failed to provide the kind of leadership that would have dealt with these issues head on and before they got out of hand.
Everyone knows service delivery protests have become a regular feature in our civil life. The Multi-level Government Initiative (MLGI), which tracked protests between 2007 to August 2012, recorded 226 protests around the country in the first eight months of last year.

The MLGI also keeps an updated service delivery protest barometer and according to this 2012 had more protests than in any other year. In fact there were twice as many protests as the previous year and more than 2010 and 2011 combined. The Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Gauteng account for 57% of all protests.
There are so many questions we must ask ourselves. One of them is why Zamdela was allowed to happen when we know that approximately 80% of all uprisings in this country have become more violent?

Perhaps the more important question, however, is: where are our leaders and why are they still silent almost a week since the protests started?
Their silence is a sad indictment of our leadership.