Government has called on all protesters who are planning to participate in marches today, must do so within the designated routes in a peaceful manner.
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. “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.
March to Union Buildings
“The planned march and delivery of a memoranda to the Union Buildings, which is a national key point, requires that prior written permission is obtained from the Presidency, in accordance with the Regulation of Gatherings Act, 1993.
“Government wishes to confirm that no such request was received by the Director General in the Presidency.
“The Constitution, which is the cornerstone of our democracy, makes provision for the public to raise concerns in various platforms, including marches. However, whilst it is within their Constitutional rights to embark on mass actions, such protests must be done within the confines of the law.
“Though our Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, provides for this important right, Section 36 of the Constitution equally enjoins protestors to conduct themselves in a responsible manner,” the Ministry of Communications said on Thursday night.
Refrain from intimidation, destruction
The Ministry said those participating in marches should refrain from any form of intimidation and destruction of property. Marchers should avoid making inflammatory statements or provocative actions that could incite violence. Conveners of the march should, together with their marshals, cooperate with the law enforcement agencies, who will be deployed to serve and protect all citizens and property.”
During the course of the day, government will periodically update citizens on the progress of the protests to allow South Africans, who are not participating in the marches, to go about their work freely, paying particular attention to operating businesses and informal traders.
“Government has a responsibility to protect property and to protect those who do not wish to participate in protests or strikes against intimidation or threats of violence. We call on communities, groups or individuals to raise issues responsibly and in the spirit of nation building.
“Government remains committed to implementing the programmes and projects that will continue to improve the lives of South Africans. The National Development Plan remains a living document that will ensure that we remain on course to tackle unemployment, poverty and inequalities within our society.
“We remain a caring and open government and we encourage dialogue and engagement to resolve any issue through appropriate platforms.
“Government thanks civil society, labour and businesses, who have already mobilized people to maintain normalcy, to deepen our Constitutional order and to underline peaceful protests as an essential part of our democracy. This important right to freedom of speech will not be taken away by this government, which fought to make real the peoples aspirations enshrined in our Constitution,” the Ministry of Communication said.
Normal working day
Newly appointed Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi has further called on accounting officers and managers in the Public Service to ensure that service delivery is not compromised today.
The Minister reminded public servants to conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner and to comply with all the regulatory frameworks relating to their responsibilities.
In terms of the Public Service Regulations, 2016, all employees in the public service have the responsibility to comply with the prescribed Code of Conduct.
“As this forms the main basis on which pro-active, corrective and disciplinary action rests, the employer must do everything possible to ensure that the provisions of the Code of Conduct are known to all employees,” the department said.
The Minister said it was important to reiterate that the primary purpose of the Code of Conduct is a positive one, namely to promote exemplary conduct. “An employee shall be guilty of misconduct and may be dealt with in accordance with sections 16A and 16B of the Public Service Act, if he or she contravenes any provision of the Code of Conduct.”
It is against this background that the Minister urges public servants to conduct themselves in line with the Constitution, the Code of Conduct and the Service Charter.
“We therefore expect Accounting Officers and Heads of Departments in the Public Service to ensure that our citizens receive the services they expect from their government.
“We commend the many public servants who, on a daily basis, display professional and ethical values and behaviour which reflects the values and principles enshrined in section 195(1) of the Constitution to create the ideal public service as envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP).
“As a public service, we should at all times be guided by the Batho Pele value statement: ‘We Belong, We Care, We Serve’,” said Minister Muthambi.