Pretoria: President Jacob Zuma has expressed serious concern about the violent nature of public protests in the country, which have also included a tragic loss of life of citizens reportedly in the hands of the police.
The President extended his deepest condolences to the families of all who have died during protests.
“The loss of any life through unnatural causes is painful to us as government and we need to do everything in our power, as society to prevent such loss of life,” he said.
President Zuma reminded the public that the Constitution grants them the right of protest but that this should be done within the ambit of the law, and in a peaceful manner.
“The Constitution states that everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions. We need to abide by this Constitutional directive.
“There is no need to carry weapons, to burn public facilities and endanger the lives of others just to express a view about something or services.
“That conduct is unacceptable in a democracy, where there is a government that defends and promotes the rights of people to express themselves,” said President Zuma.
President Zuma also called upon the police to exercise restraint and ensure that they are well prepared for public gatherings.
“They should plan for any eventuality and should be sensitive and ensure that everything they do is within the law. The police now have tools at their disposal such as water cannons, rubber bullets, shields and others that are non-lethal.
“There is a lot that they can do without killing people. People should feel safe and protected when they see the police. At the same time, members of society need to respect the police. Police are our only buffer between order and anarchy.
“We all have a responsibility to support them in their work so that they can protect us all. Many of our police officials have been killed on duty, something we should also ponder and find solutions too, as communities, working with government,” the President added.
He also pointed that the violent nature of South African society needed to be attended to.
“We need to address the citizens of this country on the culture of violence that was inherited from our apartheid past, that we have not been able to shake off up until now.
“We cannot solve our problems through violence and anger. This is something that we must address at all levels of society as part of nation building and promoting social cohesion and progress,” said President Zuma.