IMBIZO CAMPAIGN

THE government is to embark on a massive community consultation campaign to try to stem the often violent service delivery protests currently ravaging the country.

THE government is to embark on a massive community consultation campaign to try to stem the often violent service delivery protests currently ravaging the country.

The campaign involves cabinet ministers holding more than 4000 imbizos annually to keep abreast of community concerns.

In the past government izimbizo were held once or twice a year, with ministers trying to cover the whole country in a week, but now each cabinet minister will have to hold at least 10 public meetings a year.

Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said yesterday the government was hopeful that the imbizo drive would give communities a platform to "express their discontent in a responsible and constructive manner".

Maseko denied that the ruling party would use the platform to campaign for the 2011 local government elections.

"That factor was not considered at all," he said.

He also sidestepped suggestions that the government could best build people's confidence by taking strong action against companies like Julius Malema's SGL Engineering, which was allegedly paid millions of rands to build bridges and roads that almost immediately collapsed.

"The government is dealing with all cases of corruption. There is even an inter-ministerial committee in place. All the things that the government does will build confidence."

Though marches planned by the People's Education Campaign and Abahlali baseMjondolo last week were at first banned and then restricted, Maseko said the government "will welcome anybody who wants to organise a march as long as that is done peacefully".

Maseko said the "most ideal situation is for these problems to be resolved well ahead of the World Cup, so that when the World Cup takes place we don't have all these protests taking place here".

But he said there would be no increase in law enforcement actions against protesters in the weeks leading up to the World Cup.

Rhodes University political science lecturer Richard Pithouse said the izimbizo could backfire on the government.

"The implication is that the government thinks people don't understand how government works and they need to be informed," said Pithouse said yesterday.

"The fact is that the struggle that brought down apartheid was not just for service delivery. People have been betrayed and their anger is entirely rational."

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