Zuma condemns protest deaths

At least eight protesters were killed, allegedly at the hands of police, during protests in January.

FILE: Violence broke out at Zithobeni township in Bronkhorstpruit on Friday 31 January. Residents staged running battles with the police throughout the day. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday said he's deeply concerned about the recent spate of violent and deadly service delivery protests in South Africa.

At least eight protesters were killed last month allegedly by police during demonstrations in the North West, Limpopo and Gauteng.

Zuma has sent his condolences to the families of the victims, saying government must do everything possible to prevent such loss of life.

Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj delivered the message.

"President Zuma reminded the public that the Constitution grants them the right to protest but this should be done within the ambit of the law and in a peaceful manner."

Maharaj says the Constitution allows anyone to gather and demonstrate but within certain boundaries.

Last week, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega issued the same call for peace.

They admitted that policing needed to change in order to prevent further allegations of brutality, saying police would need to engage better with the communities they work in.

But they also called on the public to follow the constitutional laws on public gatherings, including the ban on any weapons at protests.

At the same time, the Democratic Alliance (DA) called for the establishment of a special parliamentary inquiry into police brutality, as well as increased psychological support for officers.

DA Parliamentary Leader Lindiwe Mazibuko pointed to the use of military ranks in the police service as a particular problem.