PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has promised that the government will be getting tough on violent protesters
In his state of the nation address last night, Zuma said South Africans had to celebrate, promote, exercise and defend their constitution and that violence was unacceptable.
"It is unacceptable when people’s rights are violated by perpetrators of violent actions, such as actions that lead to injury and death of persons, damage to property and the destruction of valuable public infrastructure.”
His comments come almost a month after violent protests in Sasolburg’s Zamdela township in a dispute over new municipal boundaries.
Zuma said: "We are duty bound to uphold, defend and respect the constitution as the supreme law of the Republic. We will spare no effort in doing so.
"For this reason, I have instructed the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPSC) to put measures in place, with immediate effect, to ensure that any incidents of violent protest are acted upon, investigated and prosecuted.”
He said special courts would be set aside to deal with those suspected of public violence during protests, and these cases would be prioritised on the court rolls.
But Zuma said while some protested, the constitutional rights of all South Africans had to be defended. His government would not disappoint regarding that expectation.
"The JCPSC has therefore put measures in place at national, provincial and local level to deal with such incidents effectively,” Zuma said.
But before the anger of communities was expressed through violence, he called on all government departments to address concerns.
Grahamstown-based Unemployment People’s Movement spokesman Ayanda Kota said "Most protests are peaceful and people resort to the streets when they are not being heard by those in charge. The way he spoke was a demonstration of an authoritarian government.”
– Additional reporting by Rochelle de Kock