Knysna residents protested outside the municipality last week. Image: Facebook

Protest: Why South Africans protest

Why do South Africans protest? Here’s more about the psychology of protesting under the magnifying glass, and how it’s done legally in South Africa.


Knysna residents protested outside the municipality last week. Image: Facebook

‘I think he doth protest too much,’ is a Shakespearean quote, from one of the author’s famous plays. The sentence rings true in Southern Africa, with a history of demonstrating for (and against) causes.

University fees and unemployment are some of its causes.

Why do people toyi-toyi?

Why do South Africans yell, burn tyres, or march to parliament in thousands?

It’s important to listen when people have had enough of something.

Here’s the psychology of protesting under the magnifying glass.


Cambridge Dictionary defines it as ‘a strong complaint’.

People take action when they’re unhappy, or feel they aren’t being heard. South Africans have a history with strong complaints, including complaints against the old South African government.

A legal march doesn’t harm anyone.

Legal marches must be approved and arranged. An illegal march can be shut down by police, with its partciipants liable for crimes and damages.

You can represent any cause.

It’s part of the Constitution, but must be done right.

South Africans have a constitutional right to action.

There are rules.

Legal marches must adhere to legal guidelines. Protest Guide says ‘notify local authority’ and appoint someone to be in charge.

Approved, legal marches are safe and authoritative. Register a legal march with the South African Police Service (SAPS).

It’s your right to say something. Doing it correctly is your responsibility.

ProtestGuide has a file to explain it in PDF.

Government discourages violent actions. Peaceful protests marked Nelson Mandela’s time as lawyer and activist. It’s important to say it responsibly.

You can say what you need to, without needing harm or fire to make your cause. Action brings people together, but should never separate anyone from humanity.

Famous protest actions

South Africans have a lot to say.

It has a whole Wikipedia page. Blockades, marches, and temporary occupations that say no for causes.

Against apartheid, against high-fees, against state and private corruption, and against low wages.

Speaking up makes things happen.

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