Shilowa concerned by violent protests

The violent nature of many recent protests was a major concern, said Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa on Monday.

He was briefing the media in Johannesburg on the recent Gauteng Extended Executive Council lekgotla.

“Many [protests] were characterised by street blockades, the burning of tyres and the destruction of property.”

Shilowa added that in some cases criminal elements or disgruntled members of organised formations were involved in the violence.

“Not all parts of the protests were spontaneous,” Shilowa noted, when commenting on the street blockades during the protests.

However the lekgotla agreed that people had a constitutional right to hold a peaceful protest.

It was agreed that government should defend the rights of citizens to organise themselves and protest peacefully.

Shilowa stated however that violence in all its forms had to be dealt with firmly and decisively by law enforcement agencies in cooperation with communities.

“Violence often serves as a distraction from the real issues that may be facing communities,” Shilowa said.

“Once people have been injured and arrested, you forget what the protest was about.”

The lekgotla agreed that protests would not allow a group to “jump the service delivery queue”.

Nor would “violence by particular groups” prevent the implementation of development projects aimed at improving the community as a whole.

Shilowa admitted that there had been many protests in Gauteng. He said that “every second day” his office received a memorandum. He confirmed that there was a system in place to ensure that he responded within a week.

The lekgotla’s deliberations were held on September 5 and 6 and involved Shilowa, members of the executive council, metropolitan, district and local mayors in Gauteng as well as provincial heads of departments and municipal managers.

Crime still to high

Crime levels in Gauteng were still high and “a lot more needs to be done,” said Shilowa.

“Even if we can show statistically that levels of crime are dropping, it’s no consolation if you know someone who has been killed.”

He added, however, that most violent crime was perpetrated by someone known to the victim.

“We need to see how we can work with communities,” he said.

If a person thought a family member might commit a violent act, he or she should be able to inform the police.

“We should reach a situation where the police don’t sneer [at this practice],” he said.

‘Unapologetic’

Shilowa also said he was “unapologetic” about changing names and symbols in South Africa.

He added, however, that the name changes had to be implemented “in a democratic manner”.

He said new symbols sustained a democracy and it was through re-naming streets and places that heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle could be honoured.

He said a decision had been taken which “contemplated the changing of the name of the Johannesburg Hospital”.

Shilowa added that public hearings on the matter would take place.

“If the people say we must leave the name as it is, we’ll accept it.” - Sapa

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