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Impact of violent service delivery protests on community development: Impasse or progress.

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Since the early 2000s, democratic South Africa has witnessed an increasing number of protests turning violent towards municipalities over poor or unmet service delivery. The available literature highlights that violent protests have been predominant in the previously disadvantaged townships and informal settlements. Furthermore, such protests have devastating effects on peoples’ living conditions, well-being, and the functionality of municipalities. Therefore, this research explores the impact of violent service delivery protests on community development. Mixed-methods research focusing on the sequential exploratory design was adopted to explore people's perceptions of violent service delivery protests to determine the impact of violent protests on development. Thus, the frustration-aggression theory and Arnstein’s ladder of citizen participation were selected as a theoretical lens to frame the study and guide the analysis. The research was divided into two phases. The first phase consisted of the qualitative research located in the constructivists' paradigm, sampling 33 participants. Purposive and snowball sampling were both employed to recruit the study participants for semi-structured interviews. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis. The second phase was the quantitative research design positioned in the positivists' paradigm, and it sampled 450 respondents using a systematic sampling method. The quantitative data was collected through face-to-face survey questionnaires across the four (4) Wards in Cato Manor. The data was analysed using inferential and descriptive statistics. The findings illustrate that due to the influx of people from the surrounding rural communities to Cato Manor, post-1994 South Africa has witnessed intensified housing deficit giving rise to unlawful land occupation. Thus, the land invasion has increased in informal settlements, escalating the demand for essential services such as clean water, proper sanitation, and stable electricity. Hence, the rise in demand for such services has intensified violent protests, negatively impacting community development. Furthermore, the findings demonstrate that violent protests in Cato Manor are complex structural and contextual phenomena that need to be understood from the historical and colonial events of dispossessions, spatial and systematic inequalities. Moreover, the perennial struggle for identity and a sense of belonging, contestation of land, and the politics of development continue to define Cato Manor. A conceptual framework to understand and explain the manifestation of violent protests is the contribution of this study to the existing body of knowledge. Violent protests cannot be divorced and defined outside South African historical and political settings. The historical, socio-economic conditions in Cato Manor act as a trigger for violent protests.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban.