South Africa has become a nation defined by its protests. Protests can, and do, bring societal problems to public attention in direct, at times dramatic, ways. But governments the world over are also tempted to suppress this right, as they often feel threatened by public challenges to their authority. Apartheid South Africa had a
shameful history of repressing protests. The architects of the country's democracy expressed a determination to break with this past and recognise protest as a basic democratic right. Yet, today, there is concern about the violent nature of protests.
Protest Nation challenges the dominant narrative that it has become necessary for the state to step in to limit the right to protest in the broader public interest because media and official representations have created a public perception that violence has become endemic to protests. Bringing together data gathered from
municipalities, the police, protestor and activist interviews, as well as media reports, the book analyses the extent to which the right to protest is respected in democratic South Africa. It throws a spotlight on the municipal role in enabling or mostly thwarting the right.
This book is a call to action to defend the right to protest: a right that is clearly under threat. It also urges South Africans to critique the often-skewed public discourses that inform debates about protests and their limitations.
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