Pretoria – The government has spoken out against the widespread violence which has characterised protests in the United States sparked by the death of George Floyd after a white police officer knelt on his neck for a long time during an arrest.
“The violence that has characterised some of the protests seriously detracts from drawing international awareness to the legitimate concerns about violence against defenseless black people and other minorities in America,” international relations minister Naledi Pandor said in a statement.
South Africa called on security forces to exercise restraint in responding to the anger and frustration felt by many Americans.
It said the “regrettable” death of Floyd presented the US with an opportunity to address fundamental human rights issues such as freedom, dignity and equality.
Just as the people of America had supported South Africa in its legitimate struggle against apartheid, the latter also supported the calls for practical action to address the inadequacies in the US highlighted by protesters, civil society and human rights organizations, Pandor said.
“We are convinced that America - a beacon of freedom for many worldwide - has the ability to directly focus on healing and peace and achieve an outcome that prioritises respect for and promotion of fundamental freedoms for all Americans,” she added.
The South African government called for cooperation to end the violence and for the development of measures to end the insecurity and harm experienced by many African Americans.
On behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the people of South Africa, Pandor also expressed condolences to Floyd's family and friends.
On Tuesday, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said it was concerned about the numerous incidents of police brutality in the US, particularly against blacks and called for calm in the aftermath of the riots that marred the protests in that country.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe noted the action taken by American authorities in charging the officer caught on camera kneeling on the unarmed Floyd, but said it was concerning that incidents of police brutality against African Americans were on the increase.
Mabe said the Black Lives Matter movement formed in 2013 had highlighted the scourge of racial killings in the US by organising marches and demonstrations in response to the killings of black men and women by the police.
“It is deplorable that almost 70 years since racial segregation was abolished in America, people of colour are still routinely slaughtered for the colour of their skin. The ANC fought and defeated racial supremacy and will not be cowed to remain silent in the face of the lynching of black people wherever they manifest,” he said.
The ANC appealed to Ramaphosa, who is currently also chairman of the African Union, to engage US authorities in a bid to diffuse tensions in the global economic powerhouse and help build social cohesion among Americans.
- African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa