SA to crack down on violent protests

15 May 2013

People using protests as a cover for criminal activities or for incitement to violence will be identified, arrested and charged, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele warned on Tuesday.

Tabling his department’s budget vote in Parliament in Cape Town, Cwele said the country’s Constitution gave South Africans the right to protest peacefully. However, while most protests in South Africa were peaceful, some were violent and disruptive, leading to intimidation and loss of life.

“Let us be up front and loudly state that in terms of our law, it is a crime to incite or participate in acts of violence during protests. Both the organisers and participants must take full responsibility for the consequences of such violent action, including destruction of life and property. As a state we can no longer tolerate such abuse,” Cwele said.

Referring to President Jacob Zuma’s 2009 State of the Nation Address, Cwele said the President had called on the security service to restore the authority of the state.

“The whole security cluster is increasing its capacity to focus on this scourge. We now have a plan and are ready to deploy the full capacity of the democratic state to identify, prevent or arrest and swiftly prosecute those who undermine our Bill of Rights by engaging in acts of violence,” Cwele said.

He called on all South Africans to join hands with the security forces and law enforcement agencies to ensure that “these perpetrators” did not prevail.

Illegal trading

Cwele also told Parliament that the illicit economy, such as illegal trading in cigarettes, illegal mining, copper theft, and trading in stolen goods, was undermining South Africa’s real economy.

This illicit trade obstructed economic development, undermined government policy and the rule of law. It also supported corrupt practices, funded organized crime, and undermined investment in legitimate manufacturing, employment and innovation.

“The sale of illicit cigarettes and tobacco products, has, for example, increased over the past four years. By the end of 2011 the illegal sale of cigarettes was more than 25 percent of market sales in South Africa. The estimated loss to the South African fiscus is R4-billion in unpaid taxes per year.”

In addition, retailers lost R7-billion in turnover and R750-million in annual profits. In employment terms, this meant the loss of almost 10 000 jobs in the tobacco industry over the past 10 years.

An interdepartmental task team comprising members of the SA Police Service, SA Revenue Service, Asset Forfeiture Unit, Financial Intelligence Centre and National Prosecuting Authority has been formed to deal with this, Cwele said.

“We expect to see positive results as soon as a result of this intervention.”