honestly, i totally laugh into my sleeve when i see some of the ridiculous (& i mean SERIOUSLY ridiculous) comments some south africans are posting up on facebook with regards to the riots in london…. ‘now where’s safer, johannesburg or london?’ !!!!!????? need i even begin to answer this???? are you friggin kidding me???? i am only willing to make one comment on the above… THE DIFFERENCE between riots in london & let’s say riots / protests in south africa….. the DEATH TOLL at the end!!!!

an interesting article from the ‘business day’ newspaper below….. (once again i don’t necessarily agree with everything said but most of it i found interesting)


TIM COHEN: London riots are tame by SA’s protest standards

London, at its most rapacious with feral youths breaking into electronics goods stores and takkie shops, is still pretty tame by South African standards

Published: 2011/08/11 07:20:14 AM

IT IS amazing how criticism often tells you more about the critic than the criticised. There’s a bizarre subterranean quality to the act of being venomous that reveals the location of the poison in the critic as much as it reveals the true nature of the subject. We criticise because we think we see failings, when all too often we only illustrate more clearly the touchstones of our own sensitivities and, it must be said, our own ignorance.

Few recent events illustrate this better than the London riots. As riveting as the events were, the only thing more riveting was the local reaction to the events. Reactions varied from the astounded to the pontificating and justifying. They also varied from vile to the funny. The common factor was that sympathy for the country and the victims seemed absent.

For example, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation went to far as to issue a travel warning. “Given the prevailing conditions in that country, we advise South Africans who can delay or postpone their trips to consider doing so,” said spokesman Clayson Monyela. Perhaps it is my imagination, but given the frequent travel warnings issued by the UK government about SA, the warning seemed as if it had an undercurrent of retribution about it. The satirical website Hayibo took it further, conjuring up an African Union resolution to deploy army troops and care packages to England because “we can no longer stand by while these savages tear themselves apart”.

As if on cue, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad strongly condemned what he called the “savage” crackdown by British police on rampaging youths, and called for United Nations intervention.

The problem is this: London, at its most rapacious with feral youths breaking into electronics goods stores and takkie shops, is still pretty tame by South African standards. Just read the “Protests in South Africa” entry on Wikipedia. It says SA has one of the highest rates of public protest in the world. During the 2004-05 financial year, about 6000 protests were recorded. This number exploded after President Jacob Zuma took office. Many were benign and peaceful. But many were not. In total, 11 people have been killed this year alone in public protests.

These figures surprised me. This means there are about 16 protests taking place every day in SA. Why don’t we hear more about them? One reason is about 40% of the protests take place in shack settlements — out of regular news channels. There is also a significant degree of repression of popular protests, Wikipedia says. Live ammunition is often used and you can be sure officials don’t go out of their way to tell major news agencies about it.

For example, most recently, in Tlokweng outside Swartruggens, three people where shot and killed by police. The Sowetan did report the incident, ta king the angle that North West Premier Thandi Modise “had to step in to calm a potentially explosive protest march”. Brave action, but clearly a bit late since three people were already dead. Where is the inquiry, the public outrage , the acres of newsprint, the pontification of the experts? All a bit lacking.

There is a flip side, too, of the London schadenfreude. I’m not really sure why the London riots took off in the way they have, but presumably the economic downturn and the UK government’s austerity programme has something to do with it — although some experts claim not.

But I do think South Africans should be less surprised than they are. I lived in London for a few years in the 1990 s and, without really knowing why , I was a bit shocked at the level of poverty in some places. I was surprised by my own naivete.

London’s poor tend to live in high-rise tenements that were built after the war in areas of the city that were flattened during the blitz. There are regional variations in this very big city, but rich and poor tend to live in close proximity. Further , the city is a powerful magnet for everyone — the ambitious and the desperate from within the country and from former colonies all over the world. In some ways, London is a third-world country. We are surprised by the riots but we should not be; it is just that our image of the city is outdated.