On March 7, 2012 tens of thousands of demonstrators in 32 towns and cities across South Africa marched in protest over new tolls on roads. From the “rolling mass action” of the 1980s to the service delivery demonstrations of the 1990s and 2000s, South African citizens have regularly participated in mass protests to impact public opinion and influence policy makers on political, economic, or social matters. Some scholars suggest that political protests have visibly increased in frequency and intensity in South Africa in recent years, yet little work has systematically examined trends in protest over time. Moreover, despite the regularity with which South Africans demonstrate, we know little about South African protestors. This briefing paper begins with an assessment of trends in protest participation over the last decade in South Africa before providing insights into protestors’ demographic characteristics, perceptions of government accessibility, and political behavior.
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