Don't shoot the protesters, Mchunu warns police

Do not shoot at unarmed service delivery protesters, KwaZulu-Natal local government minister Willies Mchunu warned police on Wednesday.

“Pictures of elderly women and men with injuries sustained as a result of the use of rubber bullets, and sometimes live ammunition, only serve to cast a negative perception on our young democracy,” Mchunu said in a statement.

Mchunu said he would meet Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa and KwaZulu-Natal community safety minister Bheki Cele to draw up a memorandum of understanding detailing how law enforcers should deal with such scenarios.

The minister also called on protesters to refrain from violence, burning tyres and damaging property.

“We are, however, extremely concerned with the violence that often accompanies some of these public protests. We appeal to our people not to burn tyres and damage property.”

Mchunu said protests were a sign of a maturing democracy, and a call to higher authorities to go back to their roots and listen to the people. If they did so business confidence could grow.

He said escalating service delivery protests were due to limited public participation in developmental projects in municipalities.

“We view these service delivery protests as voices of exclusion, as opposed to the voices of dissent.

“Our people are increasingly on the streets, not because it is fashionable to do so, but as a result of their perception that their voices are not finding expression in the public policy at the local level.”

Mchunu said protests stalled a number of economic development projects simply because of “this persistent perception of lack of consultation”.

According to Mchunu, the real problem was that every municipality had its own understanding of what constituted adequate public participation.

“Judging from experience, we may introduce a Bill on public participation.”

An urgent assessment would be carried out on all municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal to compile a “blueprint for an ideal municipality”.

Establishing a municipal Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) in all municipalities was at an advanced stage.
Scopa’s role would be to further enhance public scrutiny and accountability.

Mchunu also called for an end to corruption.

“I appeal to all those who are languishing in perpetual guilt for the way they have abused taxpayers’ money to desist.—Sapa

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