PRESS STATEMENT | LHR speaks out about civil unrest in SA

Date: 19/07/2021

As a non-profit organisation dedicated to making rights real, especially for our country’s most marginalized and vulnerable communities, Lawyers for Human Rights is saddened by the events of this past week. Whilst the violence plaguing the country has many origins – much of it stemming from our nation’s complicated history of oppression – there is no question that persistently high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality rank high among its causes.

LHR notes the measures that the government has taken to address the civil unrest and looting across the country, including the deployment of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) to bolster the South African Police Services presence.  This requires careful and constant oversight by government and civil society alike. We recall that just over a year ago, Collins Khosa was murdered by SANDF officers in his home in the township of Alexandra.  He was not the only one to face such brutality during the period, with these violations happening repeatedly in low-income neighbourhoods across the country, including in our migrant communities.

South Africa’s history of brutal public order policing has scarred these communities and left an indelible imprint on our nation’s collective psyche. We urge restraint on the part of SANDF and SAPS forces at this time as they engage in a difficult job of restoring order across the country, and for these security teams to actively avoid resorting to the severe measures taken during the lockdown of last year.

LHR further calls for the President to publish a clear code of conduct and detailed operational procedures regulating the conduct of SANDF and SAPS members during this period.

Desperation cannot be met with violence, and transparency and accountability are critical tools in avoiding that outcome.

Finally, LHR notes that the measures outlined by the State to date are silent on addressing the root causes of the unrest unfolding across the country: hunger, despair, and fear. The significant food insecurity throughout the country, amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, must be addressed.

LHR urges the State to revisit a social distress relief grant scheme, and ensure it is accessible to all those suffering within our borders, regardless of the place they call home. We support calls for a basic income grant to bridge the gap between long-term structural measures to reform an economy that has contributed to the creation of the largest income disparity in the world, and we urge the continued roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine to keep our communities safe and to aid in the re-opening of South Africa’s economic activity.

The state must act now to prevent further deterioration of the current situation, and to turn the tide of fear and desperation that threatens to overwhelm our communities.

For queries:

Wayne Ncube

National Director


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