The South African Police Service (SAPS) says it is ready for Friday’s countrywide protest action. Several civil society organisations and political parties such as Save SA, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), are taking part in numerous demonstrations in major cities including Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, eThekwini and Mbombela tomorrow. They are demanding that President Jacob Zuma step down following his Cabinet reshuffle last week.
In Tshwane, permission was initially denied by the Metro Police Department because of non-compliance. The decision was, however, overturned when Save SA approached the court today, making way for the march to proceed as planned.
Acting National Police Commissioner, Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane, on Thursday evening said SAPS respects the rights of citizens to protest. While he didn’t get the latest update on the legality of the Tshwane marches when he briefed the media shortly after 7.30pm, he assured that SAPS would respect the court’s decision.
“We are very clear that irrespective of whether a march is legal or illegal, we will police that march,” the Acting Commissioner said. He said their main goal will be to ensure the safety and security of all role players.
“We are proud of our track record of late -- when dealing with unauthorised or authorised protests that take a violent turn -- of exercising maximum restraint, whilst applying measures of minimum force to deal with the situation at hand. But with every right, there is an accompanying responsibility.”
While warning against violence or disruption during the protests, Phahlane emphasised that police will act against criminal and violent elements.
With some of the marches planned to proceed to the official seat of the South African government in Pretoria, Phahlane reminded the nation that the Union Buildings are a national key point, and will be guarded as such.
“Whether it is legal or illegal, if there is any criminality coming out of that, the police will act,” he said, adding that he has issued a directive to all police members to be at work. “We have mobilised our resources to deal with whatever situation we are confronted with.”
According to Phahlane, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) has been mobilised and will monitor the situation around the clock so that the appropriate government departments and security forces can be deployed, according to prevailing circumstances.
The General also called on all persons contemplating taking part in approved protest action to do so responsibly and to conduct themselves at all times within the confines of the laws of the country. “This entails demonstrating peacefully, abiding by the laws of the country, respecting the rights of others and paying due respect to the prohibition of carrying dangerous weapons.”
The Presidency, meanwhile, says it is not opposed to the march by Save SA to the Union Buildings. “The Presidency respects the right of South Africans to protest peacefully, as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic,” the Presidency said on Thursday evening.