Protesting is a completely legal activity in South Africa, that workers and citizens have the right to take part in to express their unhappiness with a situation. Citizens have been taking part in protests for years, some remain peaceful and legal while others turn violent, chaotic and become a frenzied crowd of angry people doing illegal things. More often than not protests become violent, often resulting in facilities being trashed and looted, while innocent people get caught in the violence fear for their lives and often leading to fatalities.
But, have protestors now crossed a moral line when they begin to deny the fundamental rights of other human beings – like education and the right to health care? Charlotte Maxeke hospital has recently fallen victim to the actions of angry protestors, however, the protestors took it one step further, emptying trash cans onto the floor and destroying medical supplies, they even began to threaten some patients. Out of the 50 operations that were scheduled for the day, doctors could only get through 19 of them, and patients weren't able to retrieve their medicine from the dispensary which had to be shut down to prevent protestors from destroying medication.
Protesting workers are demanding higher wages and bonuses which they claim they are owed by the hospital. Modise Mokwena, the chairperson of the labour forum at the hospital, said: “We’re picketing comrades, until they come up with a solution when are they paying us. They promised to engage us, they gave us a memorandum as surety that they will pay but they never paid. So, we’re saying to them 'please pay.'” Protestors also blocked all entrances, preventing patients and ambulances from entering the hospital. However, this behaviour certainly doesn't support their argument of deserving their bonuses.
Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, condemned the violence, labelling it as "hooliganism" and was outraged that the protestors had targeted patients who were weak, vulnerable and seeking help. Motsoaledi has confirmed that all those guilty of the violent attacks will be arrested. But, the protestors are not giving up and have threatened a total shutdown of the hospital without considering the well-being of their patients which should be at the very core of any hospital.
In Mpumalanga, meanwhile, citizens there have been protesting too, claiming that they ae unhappy with the election results. This quickly turned violent when two schools were burned down. Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, is demanding stricter consequences for those responsible and is urging the need for legislation to be passed that all perpetrators will receive harsh sentences. Protestors also set a primary school alight in the North West, a seemingly growing phenomenon. Elijah Mhlanga, part of the Basic Education Department said: "We request that maybe the law be amended to ensure that people who burn schools are given lengthy jail sentences."
The violent protests have resulted in hundreds of students left without classrooms and teachers unable to educate their children without the school's facilities. In 2016 the Basic Education department dealt with over 30 cases of schools being set alight over demarcation issues in Vuwani.
It seems that protestors are taking over the allocation of rights and are quite willing to prevent innocent people from receiving basic needs.