Recent violent protests in South Africa have refocused attention on the growing number of demonstrations over government failure to provide basic services, such as water and electricity. The country is known as the “protest capital of the world”. Research by the Centre for Social Change, University of Johannesburg seems to bear this out. Based on estimates from South African Police Service data, we found that between 1997 and 2013 there were an average of 900 community protests a year. In recent years the number has climbed to as high as 2,000 protests a year. The situation in South Africa is not unique. Protests have been increasing globally, particularly since the 2008 global economic crisis. In a new book, my colleagues from the Centre for Social Change and I attempt to understand South Africa as part of the global protest wave. On the face of it, protests in South Africa look quite different. They tend to be fragmented and happen mostly in black townships and informal settlement...

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