Extreme behaviour during protests unacceptable, says Zuma

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday the extreme manner in which recent protest action was being carried out in the country was unacceptable.

"The extreme manner in which some of our citizens tend to express their grievances lately is totally unacceptable. We cannot continue to loot shops, burn tyres, throw garbage on our streets, blockade roads, damage property or most disturbingly, march in violation of court orders to voice your dissatisfaction," said the President.

He said had noted that beginning of worker strikes and other forms of protest action in various sectors had begun.

"While the Constitution gives citizens and all who reside within our borders the right to assemble and demonstrate and to picket and present petitions peacefully, these rights need to be exercised within the confines of the law and in consideration of those that might not share one's grievance," said Zuma.

He said he was concerned about the "culture of extremity in everything".

"What would in other countries be petty crime, in our country becomes violent crime as some people kill even for a cellular phone. There is something seriously wrong with such conduct," he said.

Zuma said he had therefore instructed law enforcement agencies, including police and traffic authorities, to deal harshly and firmly with any member of society who breaks the law through acts of violence, intimidation or destruction of property.

"We needed to work together to understand the basic principles of law and democracy," he said.

Regarding the recent violent and illegal protest by members of the South African National Defence Union, the President reiterated that their behaviour was despicable in the extreme.

He said the discipline of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF)must at all times be kept at the highest professional standard to ensure the public's confidence in the their ability to protect and defend the people, values and the interests of South Africa.

"Marching to the Union Buildings, a seat of government that they are meant to protect, cannot be an action that one would expect from a disciplined force," he said.

He said that members of the SANDF were not ordinary public servants. "The high standard of behaviour we expect from them, necessitates that special attention be paid to their working conditions, their remuneration, their pensions and generally, their place in society."

Government is therefore in the process of establishing a Military Service Commission, which will determine the norms and standards for the military, and will also regulate the conditions of service of members of the military.

"As Commander-in-Chief I take a very keen interest in the establishment of this Commission.
I have instructed the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans to ensure that this is done without delay," said the President.