Right to protest does not give anyone right to harass – Ramaphosa

In the jittery wake of the EFF national shutdown on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government will not allow anyone or any group to deny other citizens their rights.

One of the EFF’s demands is for Ramaphosa to resign as president, citing the government’s failure to provide reliable electricity and reduce unemployment.

The EFF also wants Ramaphosa to be held accountable for the illegal foreign currency that was hidden inside a sofa at his Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo.

The stack of undisclosed US dollars was allegedly stolen in February 2020.

Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter that the country’s constitution guarantees every person “the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions”.

However, he said: “We should be clear that the right to protest does not give anyone the right to harass, intimidate or threaten anyone else. It does not give anyone the right to damage property or cause harm to any person.

“One person’s right to protest should in no way infringe on any other person’s right to life and dignity.

“It should not impede their freedom of movement and association, or their right to engage in their trade or profession without hindrance.”

The president said the state has a duty to uphold the right to peaceful protest, adding that it also has the responsibility to prevent any attempt to violate any of the other rights in the constitution.

“It is well within the right of any person or organisation to call on fellow South Africans to freely join in acts of protest.

“But no one should be forced, threatened, or intimidated into joining that protest.”

Ramaphopsa said that in fulfillment of its constitutional responsibility to protect the rights of all people, “the government will always have measures in place to ensure that everyone who wants to go to work, travel for leisure, and conduct business can do so in a safe and secure environment”.

These measures include the deployment of our security personnel across the country to ensure that the law is observed, he said, stating further that the rights enshrined in the constitution cannot be taken for granted.

“Too many lives have been lost and too many people have suffered so that we may all be protected by a Bill of Rights that applies to all laws and that is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Ramaphosa said.

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