KwaZulu-Natal has been identified as a hub of illegal public protest action and the government has announced that, in the space of a year, there had been more than one protest per day.
KZN MEC for Community Safety and Liaison Mxolisi Kaunda said on Tuesday that police reported that there were more than 530 public protests in the last financial year.
He was speaking to the media about the provincial integrated plan to address the escalation of illegal and violent protests in the province. The press briefing was a sequel to the work by the inter-ministerial committee on public protests.
He added that, in the past four months alone, more than 270 illegal protests were reported in the province.
“What makes matters worse, is that the majority of these protests become violent and result in malicious damage to private and public property.”
Kaunda added that there was also a disturbing trend which entailed the blockading of national roads.
“We must remind the public that, when you block the N2 or N3, you are not harming KZN or SA, but you are harming the entire Southern Africa region. Through the port of Durban and Richards Bay, there are movement of goods which are key to growth and economic development.”
Declaring war on protests
Kaunda said that any protest was regulated by the Gatherings Act and that any demonstration not complying with the act was unlawful.
“We want to declare a war on protest[s]. As the provincial government, we are saying that individuals who are implicated in these illegal protests in our communities must face the full might of the law. Any person who blocks roads or conducts any criminal act will be charged and prosecuted.”
He also called on communities to refrain from attacking police saying there was “unnecessary confrontation between the police and communities”.
“We wish to remind people that police have a duty to protect every right in the Constitution, including the right[s] of those who are not part of protests.”
Kaunda added that the government would no longer visit communities who initiated protests in an effort to communicate with higher levels of government.
“People who burn tyres and say the MEC must come will no longer be tolerated. They must work in their communities through their councillors. We will not adhere to such threats any longer.”
Police must be more decisive
Kaunda also called out police, saying that greater action should have been taken during illegal protests.
“We are not pleased in some cases about the conduct of police in some protests. They have been complicit [in] these illegal actions by not being decisive on people who are unleashing a reign of terror to innocent members of the public.” DM