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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Zuma surprises protest residents

A protester in a township outside Johannesburg
There were violent protests across the country about poor services

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has visited an informal housing settlement in eastern Mpumalanga Province, the scene of recent violent protests.

Mr Zuma said his "surprise" visit was aimed at getting a first-hand account of people's grievances.

Residents in area went on the rampage and burnt a library and municipal vehicle during demonstrations demanding better services like water and housing.

The protests and strikes are seen as the new president's main challenge.

Mr Zuma visited Siyathemba township unannounced in a bid to reach out to residents who were angry that there were still without basis services such as clean water and electricity, 15 years after the African National Congress (ANC) came into power.

There is no place hidden that I am not going to go to... I will see what the problems are and why we haven't been able to deliver services there
South African President Jacob Zuma

"I thought it important to come unannounced so I can hear what people have to say," he said speaking to journalists at Siyathemba township.

Mr Zuma, who was inaugurated in May, said he would visit all the affected areas.

"There is no place hidden that I am not going to go to... I will see what the problems are and why we haven't been able to deliver services there," said Mr Zuma.

There has been a spate of similar protests across the country in recent weeks.

Some 200 people have been arrested in demonstrations, which revived memories of the deadly xenophobic attacks on foreigners last year.

Mr Zuma again condemned the violent protests and attacks against foreign nationals.

He has promised to deliver better services, but his ability to increase spending has been hampered since South Africa went into recession in May.

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