National Shutdown: The rights of people to work and travel must be protected, says Ramaphosa

File Picture: ANA

File Picture: ANA

Published Mar 20, 2023


As the country braces for the EFF national shutdown today, President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned protesters that the rights of people to go to work, travel for leisure and conduct business will be protected.

Writing in his weekly “From the Desk of the President” newsletter, Ramaphosa said that the Constitution ensured the right to protest but that did not give anyone the right to “harass, intimidate or threaten anyone else”.

The president announced that more 3 400 soldiers had been deployed from March 17 to April 17 to assist the SAPS to maintain law and order.

The country is on high alert for possible looting and violence amid a national shutdown protest by the EFF who want an end to load shedding and for Ramaphosa to step down.

In his letter, Ramaphosa said the events of March 21,1960, when 69 peaceful protesters in Sharpeville were killed by the apartheid police was a reminder that South Africans needed to defend the right to peaceful protest.

“But we should be clear that the right to protest does not give anyone the right to harass, intimidate or threaten anyone else. It does not give anyone the right to damage property or cause harm to any person. One person’s right to protest should in no way infringe on any other person’s right to life and dignity. It should not impede their freedom of movement and association, or their right to engage in their trade or profession without hindrance,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the Constitution was clear that the state must “respect, protect, promote and fulfil” all the freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights.

“Therefore, just as the state has a duty to uphold the right to peaceful protest, it has a responsibility to prevent any attempt to violate any of the other rights in the Constitution,” he said.

No one should be forced, threatened or intimidated into joining that protest, the president emphasised.

“In fulfilment of its constitutional responsibility to protect the rights of all people, government will always have measures in place to ensure that everyone who wants to go to work, travel for leisure and conduct business can do so in a safe and secure environment. These measures include the deployment of our security personnel across the country to ensure that law is observed. The rights that are enshrined in our Constitution cannot be taken for granted. Too many lives have been lost and too many people have suffered so that we may all be protected by a Bill of Rights that applies to all laws and that is the cornerstone of our democracy. A century after the first Bill of Rights was adopted in this country, every person in South Africa can now enjoy these freedoms. As this government, we will not allow anyone or any group to take these freedoms away from them.”