Rebellion of the poor: South Africa's service delivery protests - a preliminary analysis

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383 Citations (Scopus)


Since 2004, South Africa has experienced a movement of local protests amounting to a rebellion of the poor. This has been widespread and intense, reaching insurrectionary proportions in some cases. On the surface, the protests have been about service delivery and against uncaring, self-serving, and corrupt leaders of municipalities. A key feature has been mass participation by a new generation of fighters, especially unemployed youth but also school students. Many issues that underpinned the ascendency of Jacob Zuma also fuel the present action, including a sense of injustice arising from the realities of persistent inequality. While the inter-connections between the local protests, and between the local protests and militant action involving other elements of civil society, are limited, it is suggested that this is likely to change. The analysis presented here draws on rapid-response research conducted by the author and his colleagues in five of the so-called 'hot spots'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-40
Number of pages16
JournalReview of African Political Economy
Issue number123
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • Corruption
  • Inequality
  • Service delivery protests
  • South Africa
  • Zuma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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