Zuma concerned about premeditated violence

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma has expressed concern with the manifestation of violence in some of the protests taking place in the country.

Delivering the sixth State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening, Zuma raised his concerns with the violent protests that have taken place around the country in the past few weeks.

“Also worrying is what appears to be premeditated violence, as is the case with the use of petrol bombs and other weapons during protests,” he said.

He said the democratic government supports the right of citizens to express themselves. “The right to protest, peacefully and unarmed, is enshrined in the Constitution.”

However, Zuma said, when protests threaten lives and property and destroy valuable infrastructure intended to serve the community, they undermine the very democracy that upholds the right to protest.

“The dominant narrative in the case of the protests in South Africa has been to attribute them to alleged failures of government. 

“However the protests are not simply the result of “failures” of government but also of the success in delivering basic services,” Zuma said.

He said when 95% of households have access to water, the 5% who still need to be provided for, feel they cannot wait a moment longer.

“Success is also the breeding ground of rising expectations,” Zuma said.

Loss of life during protests

President Zuma said any loss of life at the hands of the police in the course of dealing with the protests cannot be overlooked or condoned.

“Loss of life is not a small matter. We need to know what happened, why it happened. Any wrongdoing must be dealt with and corrective action must be taken. Police must act within the ambit of the law at all times.

“As we hold the police to account, we should be careful not to end up delegitimising them and glorify anarchy in our society,” he said.

Zuma said while the culture of violence originated from the apartheid past, South African leaders must reflect on what they did or did not do, to systematically root out the violence that surfaced in protests. 

He said acts of violence, intimidation, and destruction of property are criminal offences and the police will arrest and prosecute those who commit such criminal activities.

Interventions in place

Recently, the country has been hit by a wave of service delivery protests over water, housing and houses.

In Gauteng, Premier Nomvula Mokonyane has established a high level task team to probe the violent service delivery protests.

Earlier this week, North West Premier Thandi Modise placed the embattled Madibeng municipality under administration experiencing several service delivery protests in Mothotlung, Majakaneng and Hebron.

To address issues of service delivery, from 2011, teams from the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation have visited areas around the country to assess and promote service delivery.

Government has also been clear that South Africans themselves should participate actively in local decision-making and interact with government through the respective structures to fast track service delivery.

Achievements in service delivery

The President added that government has made remarkable achievements in increasing access to services such as water, sanitation and electricity in the past 20 years.

In terms of the provision of basic services to South Africans, government has begun an intensive programme to eliminate the bucket system as part of restoring the dignity to the people.

“Phase One of the programme will eradicate buckets in formalised townships of the Free State, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. Phase Two will eradicate buckets in informal settlements in all provinces,” said Zuma.

Regarding housing, Zuma said the next administration would focus on promoting better located mixed income housing projects.

“In housing, about three million housing units and more than 855 thousand serviced sites were delivered since 1994. Nearly 500 informal settlements have been replaced with quality housing and basic services over the past five years.”

He said some communities still did not have these services, especially in informal settlements and rural areas. All spheres of government were working to ensure the provision of these services, especially in the 23 municipalities with the greatest number of backlogs. - SAnews.gov.za