President Jacob Zuma on Thursday urged police to arrest any protesters who use violence, as fresh clashes erupted in the latest anti-poverty demonstrations rattling South Africa.
“People have the right to protest but not to interfere with the rights of others, so violence and trashing is not allowed,” Zuma told a press conference. “It is important that they should be arrested.”
“There can be no justification for public violence and the destruction of property,” he said.
Zuma spoke as police and protesters staged running battles through the day in impoverished Mashishing township in eastern Mpumalanga province, with some residents throwing petrol bombs and stones while police responded with rubber bullets and teargas, police said.
Theirs was the latest in a series of protests in recent weeks in South Africa’s poorest neighbourhoods, where residents have taken to the streets to voice their frustration at surviving the winter in flimsy shacks without power or water.
Meanwhile, thousands of municipal workers marched through South Africa’s major cities on Thursday while their union leaders considered an offer for a 13 per cent wage increase, still short of their demand for a 15 per cent hike.
The strikes and protests have turned up the pressure on Zuma less than three months after taking office on the back of strong support from unions and the poor, who are now in the streets to demand the government’s attention.