Political Violence In South Africa Essay

1111 words - 4 pages

Repression by the South African government during the apartheid era, has hurt the ability for civil society groups to form. Instead of channeling grievances through civil society organizations that act as a “safety valve” for discontent in a more peaceful way, most South Africans who want to get their voices heard end up using violence as a tool in order to bring political gain.1 The use of violence as a component of South Africa's political culture was originated during the 1980s anti-apartheid struggle, where the ANC and other underground anti-apartheid groups would use violent and militaristic actions, language, and ideas to get their voices heard as part of social mobilization. Even after the end of apartheid and the establishment of the democratic regime, the elements of formal democracy such as competitive electoral politics, lobbying of interests, and open public debate have not replaced the violent and militaristic actions, rhetoric, and ideas that were the political norm of the 1980s.2 Civil society organizations still remain weak and shallow even under the current post-apartheid democratic regime, due to heavy co-optation of many civil society groups into the ANC.3 The weakness of civil society in South Africa and the reluctance of many South Africans to organize such groups under an environment of heavy political dominance of the ANC makes it possible for violent action to happen in many South African protests.4
How is it used?
Political violence in South Africa is employed in many different ways. In some cases, many violent protests do not require the use of armed weapons like machetes. In one article by Independent Online on September 15, 2005, that is cited in the Reddy article, a protest by high school students near Johannesburg brought a violent ending when students outraged by the court's leniency on the conviction of a parent that murdered his teenage daughter went on a violent rampage and looting on street market vendors, overturned their stalls, and looted some of their goods, with the police eventually chased them back to their original town.5 In other cases, outraged citizens do carry arms and weapons to express and vent their frustration, as with a general strike by South Africa's taxi industry against the proposed government project of the Bus Rapid Transit system, where taxi drivers brandished weapons during the protests. They shot a bus driver on his hand and intimidated onlookers as well as the police. The police responded by firing rubber bullets to end the violent protests.6 Such expressions of political violence often end up with not only bloodshed but also mob lynching as well. In another case cited by the Reddy article, a poor shack community lynched two people and attacked the police in a protest over the police handling of gangs in the community, where a member of the community was murdered for not giving cigarettes demands to the gang members.7 In all, the use of political violence as a means of dissent...

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