South Africa is in the grip of its first recession in 20 years and the country’s poor, those living in townships, are beginning to stir. Violence has broken out in a number of areas.
Just three months after his African National Congress’s sweeping election victory, President Jacob Zuma has vowed to put a stop to the destruction. However, the roots of the problem run deep. After 15 years of ANC rule, hundreds of thousands are still live without basic housing, electricity and water. Zuma won a huge mandate based on promises to deliver the townships from their misery. But patience and goodwill appear to be running out and the poor, who have stayed loyal to the party of Nelson Mandela, are demanding changes. David Siyathokoa lives in a township: “For twenty years, it has been happening around here,” he said. “There is no development. You can see yourself. You can see with your naked eyes. There is no development around here. There is no entertainment. There is no youth development. There are no facilities. There is no job creation.” Zuma himself is a popular president but the anger of the mob is directed at the ANC at a local level. As many as one million families live without the most basic needs and protesters believe that corruption and nepotisim are behind it. At meetings, the calls for those responsible to step down are clarion clear. But it is not only the extreme poor that have axes to grind. July is the time of year when workers begin pay round talks and already strikes are expected across a number of sectors. Paper and chemical workers have already downed tools. Doctors and builders working on the stadia for the 2010 World Cup have also withdrawn labour. Council workers are to strike on Monday in a move designed to cripple the public sector and discontent is rumbling in the mining and gold industries.