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Violent protesters 'just want to be heard'

Protesters who burn down property say they are trying to get government’s attention.

FILE: Protesters in Hebron blocked major roads with rocks and burned tyres during service delivery protests on 7 February 2014. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - People who burn down property during service delivery protests are trying to get government's attention, according to a study by the University of Johannesburg.

A study on service delivery protest titled _The Rebellion of the Poor _has dismissed the common perception that the protesters are unthinking thugs who burn down public property for the sake of it.

The study looked at 2,220 service delivery protests between 2004 and 2013 and found that there was a lot of thought that goes into these protests.

Recently, angry community members burnt down a police station, house and a hall during a service delivery protest in Bronkhorstpruit.

Speaking on the Redi Tlhabi Show, University of Johannesburg's Trevor Ngwane said they have looked into the trend of violent protests.

"There's a tendency to look at protesters as wild people or thugs. So I decided to look into the people who protest. What are their goals? I found that protesters can be viewed as the intended beneficiaries of post-apartheid new South Africa. It is their way of constructing and shaping the new South Africa. They want their voice to be heard."

Last week, President Jacob Zuma attributed the increase in service delivery protests to the successes of the government.

He said a minority was getting impatient as they see other people receiving services.

Ngwane says Zuma is trying to put a spin onthe problem.

"That's one of the problems that people end up burning things down. It's frustration with the government's response. Usually the government will dismiss protesters as unthinking morons or they will try and criminalise it, delegitimise it or talk about a third force or they will give it a spin. This is what President Zuma is doing."

He says often by the time people march, they have gone through a number of processes.

"Some of the protests end up with people burning things because there's a sense of great frustration of trying to get the government's attention. They have a mentality of we are prepared to lose this library in order to be heard."