Protest action must not cross parameters

WHETHER it was mass protest action on the streets or passive resistance, South Africans have historically used public demonstration to voice grievances and eventually topple the then apartheid regime.

Post democracy, this method of expression continues today where citizens, workers and organisations take to the streets to say object to corruption, lack of service delivery and blatant maladministration.

But while one has the right to protest, this must be done within the parameters of the law and order and cannot spill over to willful damage to property which ultimately hurts taxpayers the most.

The lives of citizens cannot be placed at risk because there are no limits when strikers decide to air legitimate concerns.

Scenes of burning tyres, petrol bombs and barricaded streets have dominated headlines across the country over the past few months.

And Richards Bay was no exception, being at the centre of the chaos last week when contract workers took the law into their own hands, capsizing police vehicles using front-end loaders during violent protest action.

Protesters used earth moving machinery to uproot roadside barricades, while others threw rocks, injuring three policemen.

Coincidentally, three buses transporting Transnet employees were attacked in separate incidents last week. One of the buses came under gunfire in Mzingazi, another was petrol bombed in Mandlankala and the third was stoned on the John Ross Parkway.

The stand-off with government and labour as well as political unrest is nothing new, but the intensity of the protests, the rising anti-government sentiment and the negative ramifications on investor outlook is a serious cause for concern.

With communities believing the media and government will only come running if protesters resort to drastic and violent action has somewhat become the only way for some communities to have a voice.

Citizens and workers feel lawful methods of communicating grievances do not work.

When numerous engagements with community structures fail and rioting is the order of the day instead of rational dialogue and negotiation, this inevitably leads to a point of no return.

What perpetrators of horrendous crimes and incitement to violence do not see is the unthinkable end result.

This sort of behaviour will do more harm than good at a time when job security is on the line for many Zululanders.

What would happen if companies decided to call it a day in Richards Bay and prematurely end their lifespan?

The host communities, sadly, would bear the harshest brunt. Biting the hand that feeds you has far reaching consequences – something the host communities, local and national economy cannot afford right now.

Dave Savides

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