The Civic Protest Barometer, Episode Four – Who Takes Part in Public Protests? [analysis]

For those who watch these kinds of things, the Civic Protest Barometer, issued last month by the Multi-level Government Initiative at the Community Law Centre of the University of the Western Cape, held few surprises. According to this report, public protests in South Africa have reached an all-time high, and have become increasingly violent. Anyone who reads the newspapers (or has had their morning commute interrupted) would already know this. But finding a context for these protests does deliver some surprises. NIKI MOORE takes a closer look at this strange animal called public protest.

Reporter’s disclaimer: For this feature I drew on research from a number of sources, such as the MLGI, the Institute for Security Studies, Municipal IQ, material from public, legal, academic and government documents, news reports, and sources I have interviewed for case studies on municipalities. But any conclusions that attempt to contextualise public protests are entirely my own and are, by necessity, often generalisations.

Television or newspaper pictures of public violence and protests usually show groups of excited young people, mugging for the camera as they throw stones or swing burning tyres. And it is unfortunately true that there are usually large groups of young people,…