SACN State of the Cities report.(Supplied)
Johannesburg - A clear distinction must be made between genuine protests and mere acts of public violence ahead of the upcoming local government elections, Co-operative Governance Deputy Minister Andries Nel said on Wednesday.
"I think we need to make a very, very clear distinction [between the two]," Nel told News24.
"The right to assemble and to protest peacefully and unarmed is a fundamental Constitutional right that many millions of South Africans fought and sacrificed for.
"It is a right that we as government will defend to the absolute maximum," Nel said.
"At the same time, our Constitution makes it very clear that all citizens have the right to human dignity, to the security of their persons and their property.
"No state can allow anyone to participate in an armed protest. Should [it] turn violent, it’s not acceptable. It’s unconstitutional and it’s illegal."
2 people shot dead
Nel was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of the State of South African Cities report in Johannesburg, where he was joined by Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau and Ekurhuleni Mayor Mondli Gungubele.
Tshwane Mayor Kgosientsho Ramokgopa was also expected to be part of the panel on Wednesday morning, but reporters were told he was dealing with the unrest taking place in Tshwane, which is now in its third day.
Protests began on Monday evening over the announcement of Thoko Didiza as the ANC's mayoral candidate for the metro.
Police were on high alert following a spate of violent incidents in Tshwane.
On Tuesday, buses were torched and police were stretched thin to quell mass looting of malls and shops owned by foreign nationals in the townships.
Two people were shot dead during the looting and more than 40 people have since been arrested for public violence, theft and possession of stolen property.
Nel said most of the voter registration and candidate list processes had gone relatively smoothly and that protests had been sparked by a small percentage of candidate registrations.
"Preparations for elections have proceeded very, very smoothly… The IEC had two voter registration weekends. Those were the most successful voter registration weekends that we’ve had in 22 years of democracy.
"So, clearly South Africans value their democracy, they believe in their democracy to bring about a better life."
He said the ANC had registered more than 9 300 candidates through an open, transparent and participatory process.
"The challenges that arose in that process might affect less than 5% of the candidate registrations. So we mustn’t overstate the magnitude of the problem."
At the same time, those problems did need to be addressed as they were regrettably associated with violence, destruction of property and endangering of people’s lives.
"That is completely unacceptable. We take that very seriously."
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