Frequency and turmoil: South Africa's community protests 2005-2017

  • Peter Alexander University of Johannesburg
  • Carin Runciman University of Johannesburg
  • Trevor Ngwane University of Johannesburg
  • Boikanyo Moloto University of Johannesburg
  • Kgothatso Mokgele University of Johannesburg
  • Nicole Van Staden University of Johannesburg


This article reports on the frequency and turmoil of South Africa’s community protests from 2005 to 2017, which, taken together, have been called a ‘rebellion’. It defines ‘community protest’ as protests in which collective demands are raised by a geographically defined and identified ‘community’ that frames its demands in support/and or defence of that community. It distinguishes between ‘violence’ and ‘disorder’, which has produced a novel three-way categorisation of turmoil, namely ‘orderly’, ‘disruptive’ and ‘violent’ protests. Drawing on the Centre for Social Change’s archive of media reports, the largest database of its kind, and by comparing its data with details gleaned from the police’s Incident Registration Information System (an unrivalled source of protest statistics), the article reveals a rising trend in frequency of community protests and a tendency towards those protests being disorderly, that is, disruptive and/or violent. In the process of advancing this position, the authors offer a critique of other attempts to measure the number and turmoil of community protests.

Author Biographies

Peter Alexander, University of Johannesburg
Director, Centre for Social Change and South African Research Chair in Social Change
Carin Runciman, University of Johannesburg
Senior Researcher, Centre for Social Change
Trevor Ngwane, University of Johannesburg
Senior Researcher, University of Johannesburg
Boikanyo Moloto, University of Johannesburg
Senior Research Assistant, Centre for Social Change
Kgothatso Mokgele, University of Johannesburg
Senior Research Assistant, Centre for Social Change
Nicole Van Staden, University of Johannesburg
Research Assistant, Centre for Social Change
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