File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ANA

Pretoria - The government has said it noted the call for a national strike and marches across the country by the South African Federation of Trade Unions but cautioned protesters to conduct themselves in a responsible manner.

Saftu, and its more than 20 affiliated unions, are set to stage protest marches all around the country on Wednesday in protest at the basic minimum wage of R20 an hour. 

Government, in a statement early on Monday, said marches had played a central role during the apartheid era and culminated into the transition from apartheid to democracy. 

"Today, marches continue to play a role in the democratic South African society wherein people have a place to make their voices heard.

"The right to assemble and to protest in order to advance a particular cause is enshrined in the South African Constitution.  However, it also equally caters for protestors to conduct themselves in a responsible manner. Peaceful protests are quintessentially a characteristic of a strengthened democratic and progressive society."

Acting Government Communication and Information Systems director-deneral, Phumla Williams, said: “We call on all those participating in the marches across the various provinces to refrain from violence, destruction of property and intimidation. The rights of people who do not want to participate in the marches must be respected." 

"When marches deviate from the intended cause and becomes characterised by violence, looting and civil-disobedience it is less likely to produce democratic progress.”

Government further called upon the convenors of the march to ensure that chaos does not ensue around Parliament, as this is a national keypoint and the highest law-making arm of the State. The same sentiments should be applied to other areas across the country, where members plan to gather government said.

Government further appealed to all unions and those participating in the march to allow the law enforcement agencies the space to work and safeguard properties in line with the Regulation of Gatherings Act, 1993. “Law enforcement has a duty to protect and ensure the safety and security of all people in South Africa. The law enforcement agencies have a Constitutional obligation to protect and ensure all citizens are and feel safe in South Africa,” added Williams.

African News Agency/ANA