There is a need for government departments‚ especially at a local level‚ to better engage with communities on vital societal matters to avoid damage to schools and other infrastructure‚ the South African Human Rights Commissions has found.
“There is a need to encourage people to find new ways of expressing their concerns so that their actions do not result in a negative impact on other rights‚ such as a right to basic education‚” said SAHRC international liaison officer Judith Cohen.
She was speaking at the SAHRC head office in Johannesburg on Thursday afternoon during the tabling of findings and recommendations made by the human rights body following a national investigative hearing.
The investigation followed protests at several of the country’s educational institutions and the torching in June this year of over 20 schools at Vuwani in Limpopo during violent protests by the local community over a demarcation dispute.
Cohen said a National Response Team should be established to address key identified challenges.
“From these findings‚ the DBE (Department of Basic Education) should constitute an interdepartmental National Public Protest Response Team. The national body should include relevant government departments‚ particularly SAPS and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and other relevant stakeholders‚” said Cohen.
She said the National Response Team should share its reports and information with the National Planning Commission in order that the impact of public protests on the realisation of the right to a basic education‚ can be considered in the on going review of the National Development Plan.
Cohen added that the South African Police Service (SAPS) should prioritise protest actions that compromised the operation of schools.