There is need for government to introduce programmes to raise awareness amongst people in communities that the public infrastructure -indeed even infrastructure in private hands – belongs to them and should be spared during protests. It is high time communities had a sense of ownership of the infrastructure.
One of the paradoxes of the effects of last week’s burning and looting in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng has been the sight of snaking lines of people queuing for six hours to buy a loaf a bread near a shopping mall they had vandalised days before. Only a few days before, they could walk to a shop and buy, with no commotion – a luxury they had taken for granted. Transitorily, they had a taste what of what citizens of some failed states in the world go through in search of the most basic commodities.
But, sadly, ‘Destruction then Desperation’ has been the feature, especially when service delivery protests get ugly post-1994. In a fit of fury, the picketing residents of a community aggrieved about poor service delivery go berserk, vandalising critical infrastructure within sight they regard as symbols of the establishment purportedly to get attention. Indiscriminately, clinics, police stations, schools, rail infrastructure, and anything government built with taxpayer’s money in their wake are targeted. Most of the vandalised infrastructure house institutions provide essential services like education, health, security, disbursement of social grants or related benefits, just to cite but a few.
More often than not, it is only a few days, barely after the burning classroom is doused, then sanity returns, and it dawns upon the community that they don’t have a hospital to take their kids for medical attention, school for education (as it has been reported in KZN), and cannot report a crime or seek assistance from the police, etc. The effects of a vandalism are felt by and impact on people of the very community than the legislators who live in sheltered, gated communities in cozy urban areas. It takes months and a waste of taxpayer’s money to replace or repair the critical infrastructure, a spell when the community are deprived a basic service which they have a right to access as citizens, in worse woes than they were.
In general, there is need for government to introduce programmes to raise awareness amongst people in communities that the public infrastructure -indeed even infrastructure in private hands – belongs to them and should be preserved. Without a doubt, it is high time communities had a sense of ownership of the infrastructure to break the cycle of ‘destruction then desperation’. While communities have a right to protest, that does grant them carte blanche to vandalise infrastructure.