In the town of Standerton, southeast of Johannesburg, burnt tyres and rubbish filled the streets, and several people were reported injured in the protest.
Meanwhile, towns and shops were closed after thousands marched on the municipal offices in the nearby township of Sakhile.
Pressure on Zuma
The six-month-old government of Jacob Zuma, the country’s president, is under pressure to deliver on campaign promises and improve basic services such as water and electricity in South Africa.
Zuma has promised to ease inequalities in the country, but he has said the government has fallen short in meeting demands for better basic services.
His government has set up a special hotline to deal with complaints, but a spokesman for the president says he will not meet protesters.
But Sipho Seepe, a political columnist writing with the Mail and Guardian newspaper, said the people are not angry at Zuma.
“They are angry at the local officials,” Sepe told Al Jazeera.
“So we must not give the impression that this is a revolt against the government of Jacob Zuma.
“What we have are more heightened expectations that came as a result of the last elections that we had. The protests are taking place at the local level,” Sepe said.
“What the people see is that the local government officials represent the past regime, a regime that was arrogant and aloof. They do not see these leaders at the local level as part of the new regime.”
However, Hassan Isilow, a journalist in Cape Town, said Zuma should not have made such promises for easing the economic inequalities in the country.
“Regrettably the president has not delivered on any of these promises,” Isilow told Al Jazeera.
“The problem is the country is grappling with a recession, but the local people want a better living condition regardless of the economic situation of the country,” he said.
“People have argued that the country has a lot of resources … but there’s a high level of corruption within the ruling ANC where top officials within the government and the municipalities have misappropriated funds.
“The local people believe that, had it not been for corruption, then service delivery would not have been a problem.”