Govt shows growing impatience with law-breakers

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pretoria - Cabinet had some strong words for people who commit violent acts in the name of protesting, indicating its growing impatience with law-breakers.

"The time is fast approaching where the State cannot be expected to stand by while the laws of the land are being trampled upon, public and private property is being destroyed, untold damage is being caused to the country's reputation as a stable and emerging democracy, and most importantly, the rights of law abiding citizens are being infringed upon in the name of protesting," Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said on Thursday, following an ordinary cabinet meeting.

Reacting to the illegal and violent protest at the Union Buildings by members of the South African National Defence Union (SANDU) on Wednesday. Mr Maseko said those involved "must expect no sympathy from the state."

"Defying a court order, engaging in unnecessary violent behaviour, causing damage to private and public property, and attempting to invade the seat of government is totally unacceptable," he said.

And, for those taxi operators who have threatened to disrupt the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit system with acts of violence, Mr Maseko said law enforcement agencies will not hesitate to take strong action against them.

"Such threats of violence and actual violent conduct are viewed in a very serious light and will not be tolerated," he said.

Cabinet was adamant that while the right to protest was acknowledged and respected; it could not be exercised at the expense of law abiding citizens.

"Whilst the right to protest by those who are unhappy about the BRT is respected, this right cannot be exercised at the expense of law abiding citizens who have an equal right to a safe, punctual and efficient ride between home and work."

Meanwhile, Defence and Military Veterans Ministerial spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya told BuaNews that soldiers who were implicated in yesterday's protest would be suspended with immediate effect and without pay.

He said army generals were meeting in Pretoria this morning to discuss the behaviour of the soldiers affiliated to SANDU.

Two people were arrested at the scene and are facing charges of public violence. A third suspect was arrested allegedly for possessing an illegal firearm. Mr Mabaya said they would face the Military Tribunal.