Feesmust fall protest (2019-06-30) by Edward MolopiThe Nelson Mandela Foundation
Protest, a catalyst for change
Protest has always been a
catalyst for social change in South Africa.
Protests in the struggle
against apartheid, to oppose a system which marginalized and oppressed black
South Africans, is evidence of the power of protest to bring about change.
The image on the right are the fees must fall students, carrying a 1979 placard.
On the left side of the panel there is a picture of the 1976 uprising in Soweto.
Barbed wire and gloves (2019-03-26) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation
The right to protest is an essential tool for political expression and a crucial mechanism through which dissatisfied groups can voice their grievances.
Marikana miners commemorative T-shirt (2019-06-30) by Edward MolopiThe Nelson Mandela Foundation
In the exhibition we feature various widely publicised protest including The Marikana Miners Protest, where 34 miners were shot dead by the police when protesting for higher wages.
Marikana miner (2019-06-05) by Edward MolopiThe Nelson Mandela Foundation
We are tired of being captive. We will decide who will remain here - either the police or us. You cannot have two bulls in a kraal.
Mgcineni "Mambush" Noki - Marikana mineworker
Policing of protest and use of force
The state, private institutions and the police have often responded to protests with violence and intimidation. Recent history is filled with instances of violent repression. The police have used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets against protestors.
Protest placards (2019-06-12) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation
Protest placards with provocative slogans
On the right side, a public order policeman uniform accompanied by rubber bullets, teargas canisters, Loudhailer and baton.
Protests are not the first resort
Research shows that protest is often a last resort which communities turn to when other participatory mechanisms have failed.
Police reported statistics (2019-06-30) by Edward MolopiThe Nelson Mandela Foundation
Violence and disruption
Some popular media can be quick to portray a protest as violent because protestors carry ceremonial weapons, for example forgetting that the police are carrying, and have been known to use, far more lethal weapons.
Rocks and stones (2019-06-30) by Edward MolopiThe Nelson Mandela Foundation
Burning tyres have been used by protesters to barricade roads during a disruptive protest. When set alight tyres, they release a dark, thick smoke, which can be seen from a distance.
Challenging each other
Not all protests are aimed at the state or state institutions, many protests challenge other citizens or private institutions. They challenge the status quo.
The #Khwezi protest where four women silently protested by holding up placards affirming ‘Khwezi’, former President Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser in front of the former president.
Shadow outline of silent protest (2019-06-30) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation
Who is protesting
“Patterns have started emerging. Criminals within the township have taken advantage of the relative chaos. These are mostly young men who tend to emerge at night or after trouble has already started. Young women, on the other hand, are constantly at the coal face, and tend to be mightily militant”, remarks Phillip de Wet, "Themb' elihle: A breakdown of ingredients for a service delivery riot" Daily Maverick (8 September 2011).
Research was done by The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa
Photos of the exhibition taken by Edward Molopi and Ethel Arends
Design and production of the exhibition was done by Eland Design for the Nelson Mandela Foundation