Burning capabilities: the social cost of violent and destructive service delivery protests in South Africa

SOURCE: Ubuntu: Journal of Conflict and Social Transformation
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
TITLE AUTHOR(S): I.Khambule, A.Nomdo, B.Siswana
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 10919

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South Africa is experiencing a rapid increase in violent and destructive service delivery protests since the advent of democracy. At the heart of the service delivery protests is growing dissatisfaction amongst the poor and marginalised due to their lack of access to services, growing corruption and unwillingness by local authorities to attend to communities??? needs. While research has been conducted on the key motives behind these service delivery protests, there is insufficient literature that considers the social cost of destroying public infrastructure. This article adopts the capability approach???s argument that access to services increases an individual???s capabilities, and argues that violent and destructive service delivery protests undermine future capabilities by destroying the public infrastructure that is essential to improving individual and community capabilities. Methodologically, this article uses three different case studies to show how violent and destructive service delivery protests destroy the very means of attaining capabilities and improving socio-economic conditions. Through exposing these contradictions and the associated vicious cycle, the article argues that citizens and the government should ensure the protection of infrastructure, while also increasing investment in public infrastructure to maximise access to services as a means to improve capabilities.