Most community protests aren’t about policies or premiers; they’re about long interruptions to the water supply, debates about who gets RDP houses and the candidate list for city councillors, or public works jobs. They erupt after months, sometimes years, of complaints and objections. Protests ultimately reflect a failure of governance. State officials can be astonishingly unresponsive, watching a problem blossom from complaints to full-blown crisis without developing any urgency about remedies. In Marikana the expansion of the platinum mines in the early 2000s brought an influx of tens of thousands of workers in areas without a housing industry. Many could find rooms only in dirty, dangerous informal settlements.The government seemed oblivious to these conditions until the miners went on strike in 2012 and 2014. It promised to fast track housing for the miners. A task team was set up, meetings were held with officials from across the state — and almost nothing improved in the infor...

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