PRESS STATEMENT | Lawyers for Human Rights condemns police brutality

Date: 10/03/2021

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) has received several reports from student activists regarding the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) use of force, including rubber bullets and teargas, against protesting students at the University of Witwatersrand.  LHR has further received information that as of today, one person was killed and an unconfirmed number of students have been injured and others arrested.  LHR strongly condemns the use of violence against student protestors who seeks to exercise their constitutionally protected right to protest as a form of civic engagement to address their struggle to access higher education.

In 2015, the #FeesMustFall student-led movement spotlighted the many issues students face and led the struggle for equal access to universities, decolonisation of the educational system, transformation of universities to address racial and gender inequalities, as well as insourcing of general workers.

Today, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, according to the world bank, with the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbating this brutal inequality.  The pandemic has had a direct impact on students and their ability to afford fees resulting in many students being financially excluded from continuing with their studies.

Since apartheid, there’s been a continuity in the violence experienced by vulnerable people and in particular Black African people at the hands of the police and private security forces.  In 2020, our democracy was once again shaken by the police and/or army officials’ excessive use of force and violence against Collins Khosa and Nathaniel Julies, amongst others, resulting in their deaths.  Nearly a year after Collins Khosa died at the hands of police and army officials, and the start of the #BlackLivesMatter movement that swept the world, we continue to see police brutality claim the lives of people in South Africa.

The rights to assemble and demonstrate are expressed in, and protected by, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.  Throughout history, students have played a critical role in demanding accountability, confronting injustice, and strengthening democracy.  LHR therefore urges SAPS and all law enforcement authorities to immediately stop the ongoing use of violence and brutality against protesting students.

We call for the immediate investigation into the death and the use of excessive force against student protestors.  LHR further calls upon the Government of the Republic of South Africa to immediately intervene and find an amicable solution to the plights of protesting students. The police have demonstrated over and over again that they are ill-equipped to work with communities on issues of law and order policing.

For more information contact:

Nyiko Manyusa

Phone: 011 339 1960


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