The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola, condemns in the strongest possible terms, the anarchic violence by protesters at the Senekal Magistrate’s Court in the Free State yesterday.
Preliminary reports indicate that gunshots were fired, a police vehicle was overturned and set alight, the court vandalised and court property damaged, following the appearance of two accused on charges relating to the murder of a farm manager.
The disturbing scenes of members of the public storming a court and damaging property have no place in a free and democratic South Africa.
Beyond the obvious trial of destruction of public property, yesterday’s actions are an inexcusable assault on the rule of law and the criminal justice system.
We want to urge members of the community however aggrieved they might be, to allow the court and the justice system to run their course.
“We urge the law enforcement authorities to ensure that the rule of law is maintained and an important part of that is to ensure that those responsible for undermining the administration of justice and the destruction of public property are brought to book,” said Minister Lamola.
The right to hold or participate in protest action is a constitutional right – however, no right is unlimited and with this right comes the responsibility to exercise the right to protest in a lawful manner. Protestors may not damage private or public property or act in a manner that infringes on the rights or the safety of others.
In their attempt to storm into the court, the protestors’ actions in Senekal yesterday were an attempt to undermine the rule of law and damage the very same justice system that ought to protect society.
“If such attacks against the rule of law are allowed to go unchecked, our society will run the risk of descending into anarchy. It is in the interest of everyone to ensure that respect for the rule of law is defended and upheld.
However strongly communities may feel about issues, we simply cannot allow individuals to take the law into their own hands, ” said Minister Lamola.
Source: Government of South Africa