Government to deal with violent protesters

Jeff Radebe says government wants to fast track cases involving people arrested during violent protests.

Aftermath of the violent protests in Sasolburg on 21 January 2013. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN

PRETORIA - Justice Minister Jeff Radebe on Sunday said government would crackdown on those responsible for violent protests throughout the country.

Several municipal buildings and private property have been targeted by large crowds during service delivery strikes - causing thousands of rands worth of damage.

In January, residents of Zamdela Township in Sasolburg took to the streets to voice their opposition against plans to merge Sasolburg into the Ngwathe local municipality.

The protesters went on a rampage after Free State Premier Ace Magashule failed to meet with them.

They looted shops and destroyed municipal property.

The violent protest left at least four people dead and more than 200 others were arrested after they were found in possession of stolen goods.

Radebe said while the constitution guarantees everyone the right to protest, government has the responsibility to protect its assets.

"We will have to ensure that the country's infrastructure, which is critical to our economic growth, is not targeted by vandals during these protests and demonstrations."

Radebe said his department would fast track cases involving people arrested during protests for vandalism of public and private property.

"We are discussing with the judiciary and other stakeholders to ensure stricter case flow management processes are put in place to ensure that these cases are prioritised."

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma also touched on violent protests during his State of the Nation Address.

Zuma said while residents have a right to protest, destroying property was illegal.

He said government will start dealing with those who are found guilty of destroying property.