Thursday, 6 April 2017
Attention: Editors and Reporters
With various civil society organisations and political parties mobilising to stage protests on Friday, 7 April 2017, the South African Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned by comments, made in the media in recent days, which seem to encourage the use of violence in contravention of the law and disregard of entrenched constitutional rights.
While the Commission is encouraged and welcomes the commitment of the South African Police Services to confront and fight violent crime with renewed vigour, and supports its call to the community to work with the police in that respect, the Commission is concerned that the comments made by the Minister of Police, Mr Fikile Mbalula, on 4 April 2017, in which the Minister is quoted as saying: “We must not smile with heavily armed and dangerous criminals. We must nail them. We must be merciless. The Human Rights Commission will find us on the way. We won’t be governed by criminals and they should be put in their place” can be understood as not only encouraging members of the police to disregard and violate constitutionally entrenched rights in the process of fighting violent crime, but also undermines the role of the South African Human Rights Commission as an institution supporting constitutional democracy in this country.
Another concerning incident relates to comments made on television on 31 March 2017, by Mr. Sifiso Mtsweni, a member of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). Mr Mtsweni has been quoted as saying: “We want to say to Mmusi Maimane, and his DA friends, we are waiting for you, on Friday, you will find the ANC Youth League with sjamboks, and all weapons available at our disposal.”
The South Africa Human Rights Commission strongly condemns any form of unlawful violation of human rights by anybody including the police, and is encouraged by the strong statement issued by the African National Congress on 6 April condemning any threats of violence done in its name.
The Commission wishes to reiterate that everyone has the Constitution-given right to peaceful protest, to life, to due process, to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources, and to equality before the law. Those who exercise the right to peaceful protest, as well as other rights, should be allowed to do so without fear or threats of violence.
The Commission recognises the extreme circumstances in which our police find themselves in exercising their law enforcement mandate and the constitutional requirements of human rights and policing. However, the Commission wishes to stress the importance of the SAPS respecting the rule of law and performing their admittedly difficult tasks with a clear recognition and observance of the rights as ascribed within our Constitution.
The Constitution protects every person, including criminal suspects, and guarantees everyone the right to life, and security of the person. It also protects criminal suspects on the right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a fair trial.
The Commission shares Minister Mbalula’s conviction, as stated in the same speech, that the Marikana massacre should never happen again. Forty-four human beings died in a tragedy that has left innumerable families bereft, and an indelible mark on our constitutional democracy, as did the deaths of Andries Tatane and Mido Macia.
Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission