Police Minister Bheki Cele has urged municipalities and stakeholders to become more proactive in removing the root causes of violent protests.
He said it was worrying that protests are turning violent and dangerous.
“The fact is that communities resort to violent demonstrations if and when they feel their voices are not heard, when their basic needs are not met,” said the Minister.
He reminded South Africans that the Constitution guarantees that everyone “has the right assemble peacefully and unarmed”.
However, communities must act responsibly and within the law when exercising their democratic right to protest, said the Minister, adding that the carrying of dangerous weapons during protests was illegal.
“The attacks on police officers, property and businesses during protests will not be tolerated,” said Cele.
The police will be taking this message to the doorstep of South Africans through various community awareness campaigns. “This, I believe, will serve as preventative measure to minimise and stop disruptive and violent protests,” he said.
In the same vain, police officers remain obliged to fulfil their constitutional mandate of maintaining public order, protecting and securing the inhabitants of the Republic and their property.
“They are urged to always exercise restraint and utmost professionalism during these situations of unrest,” the Minister said.
He warned officers that they would always be under scrutiny and remain accountable for their decisions and actions.
Cele used the briefing to condemn ongoing murder of police. In the last month, 12 officers have been killed on and off duty in South Africa.
“Violence against any law enforcement officer must never be normalised,” he said.
While government and Cabinet have condemned the attacks, the silence from communities, civil society formations, NGOs, activists, churches and other interest groups was deafening.
“Each day thousands of police officers put their lives at risk in order to serve and protect us. We all must speak out against violence meted on our men and women in blue,” he said, urging communities to continue to assist police with information that can lead to arrests.