DISCONTENT: The aftermath of a protest in Alexandra against a lack of housing. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
DISCONTENT: The aftermath of a protest in Alexandra against a lack of housing. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

RESIDENTS of the Princess Park informal settlement in the West Rand continued on Monday with their nearly week-long standoff with the government over better housing and service delivery.

Amid the burning tyres, petrol bombs and barricaded streets, the South African Institute for Race Relations warned of a rise in such protests in the run-up to the upcoming elections. The institute’s CEO Frans Cronje said in the past five years there had been an upward trend in protest action and expectations were that this year would see an average of four "mainly antigovernment protests" every day.

"It’s largely the crisis of rising expectations, which is a theory that was developed within the institute some years back. It holds that by handing out free and subsidised services you create expectations of future improvements in living standards without securing the growth and investment to meet those expectations."

According to official records from the South African Police Service, since 2009 the trend has been one service delivery protest every two days across South Africa.

Mr Cronje said the African National Congress (ANC) had done "far better than most people are willing to admit" when it came to delivering to informal settlements. "In terms of basic services and welfare, the ANC has done better than it often understands.

"But there will always be new demands and outstanding old demands. The lesson is that you cannot rely on a government to supply the basic needs of a significant number of its people."

The Right2Know Campaign said on Monday violent protest action was quickly becoming the only way for some communities in the country to get a voice.

It said communities felt that lawful methods of communicating grievances do not work; that the media and government "will come running only if protesters burn tyres, erect barricades and burn down councillors’ houses".

Mr Cronje said: "The Democratic Alliance has been seduced by ANC thinking on issues ranging from healthcare to empowerment policy. There’s no reason to expect in government the DA will do any better in attracting investment-led growth than the ANC."