The violent nature of public protests was seriously concerning, President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday.
“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 in a statement.
Zuma said the constitution granted the public the right of protest, but 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,” he said.
“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.”
Such conduct was unacceptable in a democracy, where there was a government which defended and promoted the rights of people to express themselves.
Zuma also called upon the police to exercise restraint and ensure they were 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 president said.
“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 saw the police, while at the same time, the public needed 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,” Zuma said.
“Many of our police officials have been killed on duty, something we should also ponder and find solutions to, as communities, working with government.”
The violent nature of South African society also 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,” Zuma said.
“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.” - Sapa