The South African Human Rights Commission have condemned the violence and destruction that has accompanied the recent spate of protests in Mahikeng.
Violence erupted in Mahikeng when protesters took to the streets on Wednesday to demand that Mahumapelo resign or be recalled by the party’s leadership.
President Cyril Ramaphosa cut short his trip to London, where he was attending the Commonwealth heads of state summit, to convene an urgent meeting in the town on Friday.
“While it is encouraging to see communities exercising their constitutional rights to demonstrate, to picket and present petitions, the level of violence, obstruction of freedom of movement and scale of destruction of property accompanying those activities in Mahikeng, is cause for great concern,” the SAHRC said in a statement.
The rights organisation said the protestors had the right, and should be encouraged to demand service delivery, as a way to promote the realisation, observance and protection of their rights as set out in the Bill of Rights.
“In our history, protests have been part of the public’s right to express objections to existing policy decisions and resource distribution patterns.”
The organisation also pointed out that members of the public had the right of access to various socio-economic rights such as housing, water, health care, social security and others.
“But it is counterproductive when they destroy some of the services and infrastructure that have been delivered.”
“Doing so sets back the development agenda in that some of the already overstretched resources earmarked for more service delivery, have to be used to replace the destroyed infrastructure,” the SAHRC said.
The SAHRC said it was concerning that the rights to assemble, demonstrate, picket and petition was being exercised in a manner that was in itself a violation of Section 17 of the constitution, which required that the exercise of this right must be peaceful and not pose harm to persons or property.
“The South African Human Rights Commission, therefore, condemns the destruction of property and violence that characterize the Mahikeng protests.”
The rights organisation called on government to expedite efforts to resolve both the social and political impasse that had led to the protests.
“The Commission further calls on the law enforcement agencies to ensure law and order is maintained, however, maximum restraint must be exercised, and the police must ensure that police action is within the ambit of the law.”
THE SAHRC also said it was considering demanding that the provincial and local governments shared their plans, budgets and related expenditures with them on an ongoing basis.