Violent protests against poor government services and a lack of housing intensified across South Africa Friday, less than a month before a May 8 general election.
Demonstrations that have seen protesters block roads, burn rubber tires and confront police spread to new areas of Johannesburg and Cape Town. The cities are run by the Democratic Alliance, which blamed the ruling African National Congress for instigating the protests, an allegation the ANC denies.
Protests also erupted in Kroonstad in the central Free State province and Vereeniging in the southern part of the Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, the police reported.
In Lwandle, a township in Cape Town’s Strand region, officers arrested 37 suspects for public violence. In Pennyville, which is part of the Soweto township southwest of Johannesburg, eight were taken into custody and officials are maintaining high visibility to restore law and order, the police said.
The ANC has dominated all elections since taking over power in 1994 after leading the fight against white minority rule. Even so, it has struggled to reduce a 27.1% jobless rate and expand an economy that hasn’t grown at more than 2% since 2013, and citizens in many poor communities have grown increasingly incensed over the lack of electricity, water, houses and jobs.
There were a record 67 protests against municipalities in the first quarter, according to Municipal IQ, which collates local-government data.