Protest as communication for development and social change in South Africa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


South Africa has one of the highest rates of protest in the world. The country experiences a strong protest culture, with more than two million people protesting every year (Plaut, Behind the Marikana massacre. New Statesman. Retrieved from sacre, 2012). Such frequent occurrences of protest action make some critics assert that the country may be the protest capital of the world (Bhardwai 2017, Runciman, SA is the protest capital of the world. Pretoria News, 22 May 2017. Retrieved 26 Oct 2017 from 9279206, 2017). The development and social challenges confronting post-1994 South Africa, after the country achieved democracy, are mostly responsible for fuelling protest action with mass mobilization for social change often taking the form of visible street protests. Yet protest as a tool for communication is not new to the South African arena. It is rooted in a history of mass action against the pre-1994 government as attested to by among others, the 1976 Youth Uprising against the then proposed education policies. There is an increased use of protest as communication for change as evidenced by the sheer volume of protests, with three protests and labor strikes recorded per day (Institute for Security Services, At the heart of discontent: measuring public violence in South Africa. Retrieved from, 2016). This chapter identifies some of the core development and social challenges confronting the country and outlines how protest has been used to draw the attention of stakeholders including policy makers to the problems. Exemplars of protest action used in the areas of health, housing, education and literacy, gender and other human rights, social justice, and access to social service provision in communities are provided. Finally, the chapter offers a critique of protest action in South Africa, by discussing their success stories and limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Communication for Development and Social Change
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789811520143
ISBN (Print)9789811520136
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Communication for change
  • Development and social challenges
  • Protest action
  • Protest communication strategies
  • Service delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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