President Jacob Zuma condemned violent anti-poverty protests that swept South Africa this week, but vowed to listen to public grievances over poor service delivery.
More than 200 people have been arrested this week as protesters in townships around Johannesburg and in other parts of the country stoned vehicles, set fire to buildings and looted shops.
Most have been released on bail or with warnings, but Zuma and his ruling party denounced the violence and called for an end to the unrest which has put pressure on his new government’s election promises to ease crushing poverty.
“Our constitution allows our people the right of freedom of assembly and expression and to protest where they feel they need to, but this must be done within the ambit of the law,” Zuma said in Johannesburg.
“There can be no justification for violence, looting and destruction of property or attacks on foreign nationals residing in our country.”
Zuma, who took office in May, pledged to address public grievances and acknowledged service delivery problems.
“This government will listen to people’s concerns and will work with them to address them,” he said.
The ANC leader took office after having campaigned to battle massive poverty faced by millions of South Africans 15 years after the end of apartheid, amid a 23.5 unemployment rate believed to be much higher.