Mbeki warns on service protests

JOHANNESBURG – South African President Thabo Mbeki on Thursday warned the government would not tolerate violent protests which have rocked some of the country’s poorest areas amid rising anger over lack of service delivery.

Mbeki, addressing a rally in Kimberley marking

the anniversary of the country’s first democratic vote in 1994, said the government was working to bring basic services such as electricity and water to all South Africans but would act against protesters who take matters into their own hands.

“It cannot be that after 12 years of democracy we still have municipalities that cannot deliver basic services because of lack of capacity,” Mbeki said.

“I must warn all those who engage in criminal violence, attacking councillors and destroying private and public property, will be met with the full force of the law. They must know that they will not succeed to terrorise and intimidate the government and the nation by resorting to crime.”

South Africa has seen a series of sometimes violent demonstrations over lack of service delivery in poor areas, many of which remain severely under-resourced more than a decade after the end of apartheid.

The violence grew ahead of local government elections in March, leading some analysts to say that Mbeki’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) risked losing its traditional hold over the poorest segments of the black electorate.

The ANC emerged from the polls with a decisive victory, maintaining the political dominance it has enjoyed ever since Nelson Mandela first led it to victory in 1994.

But anger over lack of service delivery continues, particularly in so-called “cross border municipalities” which the government is trying to consolidate along provincial lines, often by redistricting them into poorer provinces.

Mbeki said the government would continue the redistricting and had developed specific plans to deal with improving basic services — a programme which he said was “central” to South Africa’s post-apartheid freedom.

“We cannot enjoy this freedom while many among us still have no electricity and other basic services,” he said. — Reuter