Police will act against strike violence, intimidation – Mthethwa

Pretoria: Government and law enforcement agencies will act against anyone found to be responsible for the damage, intimidation and burning of trucks during a strike by truck drivers, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has warned.

“We are monitoring the situation and frankly what we have been observing is pure criminality. Acts of violent destruction and intimidation of innocent people cannot be justified as public protests and that is why we shall act harshly against lawlessness,” he said.

The minister said that their intelligence unit was currently conducting an analysis of the situation and arrests of the perpetrators were imminent. Mthethwa stressed that government recognised the democratic rights of any person to express their grievances, whether through a public protest or any other legal gathering as stipulated within the labour laws.

“However, such rights do not imply that those do not who wish to participate in a strike must be intimidated, beaten and properties destroyed,” he added. The current strike by truck drivers has been accompanied by serious provocations, intimidations, public violence and even elements of criminality.

While no one had claimed responsibility for these actions police would do all in their power to arrest those responsible, Mthethwa said. “Whilst the police have a responsibility to police public protests, gatherings and events within the framework of the law, the Gatherings Act confers considerable responsibilities on conveners or organizers of events to ensure that such events are carried out in an orderly and peaceful manner. Any contravention of this must result in the organisers facing criminal charges.”

A challenge in policing public protests, demonstrations and illegal gatherings was that such situations drew the police away from their normal policing activities. Deployment additional members to public protests in some ways compelled police to redirect resources from their normal day-to-day policing activities, he added.

“We recently shared with the nation the national crime statistics and collectively, as society and government we should be focusing on priority crimes such as murder, sexual offenses, assault grievous bodily harm and aggravated robberies. That is where all our energies must be directed at,” Mthethwa said.

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