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[OP-ED] SERI's Yongeza Mbimbi writes about the importance of protest for communities that are often unheard (13 October 2023).

YMbimbi Daily MaverickOn 12 October 2023, the Daily Maverick published an op-ed by SERI's Yongeza Mbimbi entitled, 'Protests are a powerful tool of democratic expression and a legitimate form of political participation'.

The op-ed discusses the importance of protest especially for marginalised groups and communities that often go unheard. In it, Yongeza Mbimbi discusses the protest by Slovo Park's informal settlement residents that resulted in a community meeting with Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi but also resulted in the killing of 16-year-old Karabo Chaka, allegedly by the police. The community turned to protest as a last resort after many years of engaging the City of Johannesburg and years of many broken promises by public officials from all levels of government. He writes:

"to understand more fully the nature of protests, we need to ask why communities protest in the first place, and why other means of engagement have been ineffective. It is also necessary to question why protests are often met with a violent state response.

In the case of Slovo Park, the protest was an expression of a community’s deep-seated frustration with the lack of basic services and stagnant development after decades of false promises and fruitless engagement."

The op-ed addresses some of the misconceptions about protest and reflects of their contribution to bringing about social change. These misconceptions and the history of protest in South Africa are the subject of a new SERI publication, 'Listen to Us! Reflections on Protest in Democratic South Africa' which was launched on 26 September 2023.

Listen to Us publication coverThe publication is adapted from a protest exhibition entitled “Insurgent Citizens: Reflections on Protest in Democratic South Africa”  which provided a compelling visual narrative that both examined the history and practice of protest, as well as challenged popular assumptions and myths associated with it. The exhibition was put together by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) and the Nelson Mandela Foundation in March 2019. 

  • Read the full op-ed here.
  • Download the publication here.