Home Institution

Beloit College

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights


In late January of 2012, undercurrents of dissatisfaction with Cape Town’s ruling political party, the Democratic Alliance, and their pace of development and service delivery came to a head as aggrieved citizens marched through the southern suburbs of the city to a green known as Rondebosch Common. The citizens had planned on protesting the lack of opportunities for Cape Town’s non-white citizens while at the Common in a “Land, Housing and Jobs Summit,” but were met with police batons and armored vans that quelled the movement in an astonishing show of force. This paper will investigate the motivations of the attempted protest on Rondebosch Common, arguing that underlying discontent with the DA and their policies of unequal service delivery, particularly as it relates to land, are to be blamed for the citizen’s anger so many years after apartheid’s end. Further, it will argue that the decision to march on Rondebosch itself makes this particular demonstration different from the many that have occurred in South Africa.

By interviewing members of the various organizations involved in planning the march and community members, reading local newspapers that covered the event, and academically researching the question of urban land reform in South Africa in the years since apartheid, a more holistic view of the movement sometimes called “Occupy Rondebosch Common” emerges, including just why a protest was deemed necessary in the first place and why the decision was made to march on Rondebosch.

Through compiling these separate sources of information into one narrative of the protest, the motivations for the march become more readily apparent, suggesting that the planned summit was in response to the slow pace of the Democratic Alliance’s service delivery in marginalized sections of Cape Town. What sets this particular demonstration apart was its strategy of crossing the invisible line dividing the city between whites and non-whites by holding a protest of Cape Town’s disaffected in the leafy southern suburbs. With this decision, and because of the large show of force by the municipal police, “Occupy Rondebosch Common” was thrust into the spotlight and into the consciousness of a city that has ignored certain problems of its population for far too long. By turning the demonstration into a news story, the protesting citizens at Rondebosch accidentally but effectively revitalized the debate in Cape Town over land, housing and jobs.


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Peace and Conflict Studies | Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Politics and Social Change | Public Affairs | Race and Ethnicity | Social Welfare


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