Zuma talks tough on violent protests

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has warned that government will not tolerate the destruction of property, violence and intimidation that often accompanies service delivery protests.

"There is no cause in a democratic and free society, however legitimate, that justifies the wanton destruction of property and violence that we have witnessed," President Zuma said on Tuesday.

He was speaking during a meeting with mayors on the role of local government and municipalities to discuss the strengthening of the local government sphere.

In recent weeks there have been several service delivery protests in the country where infrastructure and public property was left damaged.

Zuma said South Africa had a proud history of protest against wrong-doing and injustice and that there was no institution or individual that South Africans could not stand up to and challenge if they thought an injustice has been committed.

However, burning down libraries, torching people's houses and looting spaza shops was not conducive to building a strong nation. It does not solve people's legitimate problems.

Zuma said government had acknowledged that there were some challenges that needed to be addressed urgently.

"Government has over the past few months been reviewing the local government support programmes that have been put in place in recent years," he said.

These support initiatives included Project Consolidate and a few others.

The initiatives provided hands-on support to municipalities and provided key performance areas for local government to work and report on.

Zuma said there have been a number of other government programmes to advance service delivery and institutional support, adding that a lot of work still needed to be done.

"We must also recognize that a lot of progress has been made over the years. Significant progress has been made to deliver basic services to our people since the advent of democracy.

"More people have access to clean water; more people have access to houses that are electrified; and basic sanitation has been provided to millions of households. Municipalities are at the forefront of providing these services. But it is also true that significant backlogs remain."

Zuma said it was clear that more needed to be done to address the plight of the poor.

He urged authorities to be mindful of the fact that they were discussing service delivery against a background of a global economic crisis, which meant that the country did not have the type of resources needed to fulfill all the goals.

Further challenges include many municipalities being bankrupt; many people being unemployed and unable to pay for services which led to problems in revenue collection.

This was coupled with the fact that municipalities are owed revenue even by other government spheres, for example R53 billion is due to them from many departments which are not paying for services.