Threats of violence 'unconstitutional, illegal'

Commitment to solutions welcome

Director of the CFCR, Advocate Johan Kruger welcomed a new commitment by the government to find solutions to 'violent protests'
Advocate Johan Kruger

The director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CFCR), Johan Kruger, says the increasing tendency of aggrieved workers to resort to violence, threats of violence and intimidation in pursuit of higher wages and better working conditions is not only unconstitutional, but also illegal.

However, the ANC’s announcement that the government will look for urgent solutions to violent strikes and public protests, as well as solutions to the adverse effect of striking teachers on the right to education, was welcomed by the CFCR.

Kruger said in a media statement that the Constitution protects the rights of everyone to assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petitions in a manner that is peaceful and unarmed.

“The Constitution also provides a number of other options to claim our rights in a peaceful and lawful manner, including the right to fair labour practices, the right to join a union, the right to engage in collective bargaining and, ultimately, the right to strike.

"These rights, however, by no means allow for the destruction of property or the intimidation and assault of co-workers and other individuals,” he adds.

Acts of violence directly linked to strike actions have been rapidly increasing, while violence and threats of violence to achieve goals and objectives have seemingly become the accepted norm in our society.

“A growing number of protests have been accompanied by terrible violence, intimidation and destruction of property, resulting in the indiscriminate violation of various fundamental rights by the protesters.

"These include the right to life, to safety and security of the person, to the protection of property and to education.

"In turn, violent protests have been met with increasingly violent reactions by the government, including the SAPS (SA Police Service), which has resulted in further infringements of fundamental rights," says Kruger.

“Although the ANC's aforementioned announcement is welcomed, ensuing action by the government must be aimed at two outcomes: First, finding immediate and sustainable solutions, within a human rights-based context, to the violence, destruction and intimidation increasingly associated with strikes; and secondly, addressing the root causes of service delivery protests – the failure to realise socio-economic rights such as providing water, sanitation and adequate housing to a great number of people, most of them poor, unemployed and vulnerable," he explains.

“The failure to provide these basic services to millions of people – due to reasons including widespread corruption in the public service at all levels of government and the deployment of inept cadres to key positions in provincial and local government – has to be resolved as a matter of urgency in order for the government to find any real solution to future violent strikes.

“Allowing these violent acts to continue with impunity will add nothing positive to our constitutional democracy and may endanger the rule of law itself. Violence breeds violence and deprives people of hope – possibly for generations to come,” Kruger concludes.

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Issue 68