News & events


12 May 2018

For 15 years South Africans in North West have been getting angrier. Here’s why…

Recent violent protests in Mahikeng in South Africa’s North West province have prompted widespread commentary about what’s behind them, as well as their significance. Protests have raged in the province for two weeks and have seen at least one person killed and millions in property damage. The North West, which lies to the west of Johannesburg and borders Botswana, has also been affected by a two-month health care services strike.

Some have attributed the protests to demands for the delivery of basic services such as housing and sanitation, including concerns about the closure of health clinics. Others have focused on democracy and corruption related issues given that the protesters have been calling for the removal of the Premier of the province, Supra Mahumapelo.

All these factors have no doubt played a part in fuelling people’s anger. But the violent protests in Mahikeng and other parts of the province beg some serious questions about the functioning and state of South Africa’s democracy. Evidence from the latest round of a nationally representative South African Social Attitudes Survey conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council provides some profound insights into how people in that part of the country see the world. Each survey round consists of a sample of 3,500 adults older than 15 years. This opinion poll (which has been conducted every year since 2003) has enabled us to track public opinion in the North West.

The survey shows that over the past 15 years people in the area have been growing disgruntled with the political leadership in the North West province. Citizens are discontented with the status quo and want meaningful change.

The survey also shows that corruption has become one of the biggest concerns for residents of the province when it featured much lower down their list of concerns 15 years ago.

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