Event Reports

South Africa's Insurgent Citizens

DDP Public Forum

KAS partner Democracy Development Program (DDP) hosted a forum on 'South Africa's Insurgent Citizens' which offered a platform to explore the rise of insurgent citizenship in South Africa given recent student protests.

The DDP, with Dr Julian Brown from Wits and the author of the book South Africa's Insurgent Citizens, as well as Dr Settler from UKZN, came together on 25 November to discuss a new form of politics - that of the insurgent citizens.

Protests have been increasing in South Africa after 1994. The book by Julian Brown, entitled South Africa’s Insurgent Citizens addresses this new form of politics that is emerging from the streets of this country. The Democracy Development Program (DDP) hosted a special forum based on the Brown’s book with the same name, with him and Dr Settler from UKZN as respondent, at the Elangeni Hotel in Durban, to discuss this new emergence.

From the streets, the people shout Mandela sold their parents a dream, but now they want a refund. Be this service delivery protests, protests to laws or student protest such in the case of the #FeesMustFall campaign, there’s a sense of anger of now receiving the promised dream. As in the case of Marikana, even with the student protests, there is a similar trend, people feels there are no more solutions left for them other than to protest. More so, in the case of the poor, fire and faeces become a weapon used by the people from the township to gain access to government, and governmental resources.

The book by Julian Brown, besides well written and providing an innovative understanding of the rising popular protest in the country today, also challenges existing analytical frameworks and offers innovative ways of thinking about protests. He feels that one should not live in fear protests, but rather look at the possibilities that could emerge, that is since protests should rather be seen as a space to engage and collaborate on ideas for innovative solutions. In this space, people with different experiences could be gathered and ideas being shared. In essence, there are possibilities of claiming justice from below.

The DDP, through our forums, and other dialogues reflect this spirit of harnessing the voices of the people on the ground and raising that up by empowering civil society organisations and by providing spaces for people to gather in a safe and constructive manner thereby allow for greater and wider participation than following a top-down approach.