Parliament, Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma warned on Thursday that action will be taken to prevent violent protests.
“There are some lessons from Marikana and other incidents that we cannot allow to recur in our country,” he told a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament convened for his state-of-the-nation speech.
“Our Constitution is truly one of our greatest national achievements.
“Everything that we do as a government is guided by our Constitution and its vision of the society we are building.
“We call on all citizens to celebrate, promote and defend our Constitution,” he said.
The Bill of Rights guaranteed that “everyone has the right, peacefully, and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions”.
“We therefore call on our people to exercise their rights to protest in a peaceful and orderly manner.”
It was unacceptable when people's rights were violated by perpetrators of violent actions, such as those which led to injury and death, damage to property, and the destruction of public infrastructure.
“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 to put measures in place, with immediate effect, to ensure that any incidents of violent protest are acted upon, investigated, and prosecuted,” he said.
Courts would be allocated to deal with such cases on a prioritised roll. The law had to be enforced and it had to be seen to be enforced, fairly, effectively, and expeditiously.
“The citizens of our country have a right to expect that their democratic state will exercise its authority in defence of the Constitution that so many struggled so long and hard for. We cannot disappoint this expectation.”
The Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security cluster had put measures in place at national, provincial, and local level to effectively deal with such incidents.
“Let me hasten to add that government departments at all levels must work closely with communities and ensure that all concerns are attended to before they escalate. That responsibility remains. We are a caring government,” Zuma said. - Sapa