Insurgent citizenship, class formation and the dual nature of community protest: a case study of Kungcatsha

Monday, 27 August, 2012 - 15:00

Presented by : 

von Holdt

This chapter examines a case of community protest in a single town, which we call Kungcatsha 1 , which was rocked by two weeks of violent community protests in the second half of 2009. The protests started when a mass meeting of residents in the local stadium decided to call for a stayaway in protest against the town council's failure to explain to the community what had happened to a missing sum of R30 million. Violence flared up when the police were called in and attempted to disperse protesters with teargas and rubber bullets. Barricades of burning tyres were set up. During the protest, a councillor’s house, a community hall, and a library were torched, and the council offices and a new community centre were partially destroyed. We explore the internal dynamics of the protest movement and its relationship to internal contestations within the local ANC and town council. In brief, we find that the protest movement in Kungcatsha has a dual nature, combining an internal power struggle in the local ANC with a mass movement of aggrieved township residents protesting against corruption, joblessness and the failure to provide municipal services by the local town council. Once the demand of the protesters for the ‘recall’ of the mayoral committee had been met, the crowds dispersed and the protest leadership were reabsorbed into the ANC, leaving no durable organisation of civil society to continue representing the interests of residents. The protest movement itself is shaped by complex process of class formation and class contestation within the local community and various sites of power, such as the ANC and the town council.

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