On Friday 07 April 2017, a number of protest actions took place in several provinces, initiated by civil society organisations. On Wednesday the 12th April 2017 some opposition parties are planning to march to the Union Buildings.
As the Minister of Police, I would like to acknowledge the manner in which protesters exercised their right to protest together with the responsibility that comes with that right. In most protest actions, people observed and obeyed South African laws and prevented the occurrence of violence and damage to property. In the main, the protesters responded positively to government’s call to exercise their rights responsibly. However, the sporadic incidents of violence which did occur are to be condemned.
As the Minister of Police, I was greatly pleased that no member of the South African Police Service (SAPS) acted in a manner that was unprofessional and contrary to our values and ethical standards we seek to uphold. The SAPS members were deployed in all protest areas and they executed our policing mandate, ensuring that all participants and bystanders were guaranteed a safe and secure environment in which they could express their rights.
It is also important to note that before the protest actions of the 07 April 2017 took place there was some confusion over the legality of the protest. According to Section 4 of the Regulation of Gatherings Act, 1993 (Act 205 of 1993) the South African Police Service is but one role player in deciding on whether or not to authorise planned protest action. When authority is not granted, the convenor has the right to turn to the courts of our country. For the march planned for 12 April 2017, we have been informed that authorisation was granted to opposition parties, the convenors.
The SAPS members, together with other government departments, law enforcement agencies and stakeholders, will once again be deployed to maintain law and order and to keep South Africans safe. Again, government urges protesters to exercise their rights in accordance with the law, without resorting to violence, criminality and damage to property.
We call upon protest organisers to ensure that the protest actions are peaceful and do not infringe on the rights of others. Intimidation of South Africans who choose not to join the protest will not be tolerated.
Many people died for the rights we exercise today. Many fought for a free, democratic South Africa where the rule of law reigns supreme. These rights must never be exercised without observing the responsibilities that accompany them.