Monday, March 22, 2010

South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe SaysViolent Protests Should End

Sunday March 21, 2010

End violent South African protests - deputy president

By Marius Bosch

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Violent South African protests over housing, jobs and lack of basic services had to end, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Sunday, as the country marked the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre.

For the past two months, protests in poor black townships and shantytowns have become an almost daily occurrence with police using water canons and rubber bullets to disperse protesters armed with rocks and stones.

Motlanthe, speaking at the commemoration of the killing of 69 people at Sharpeville black township a half century ago which thrust apartheid onto the world stage, said a lesson could be learned from those protesters who did not burn libraries and loot public facilities.

"They marched peacefully to the police stations to hand over their pass books -- the badges of slavery. Therefore, in a democratic era, I urge you to use democratic institutions available to us to voice our grievances and demands," Motlanthe said.

The massacre of 69 people, many shot in the back by apartheid-era police on March 21, 1960, came after a protest against laws forcing blacks to carry pass books, or identity documents, at all times.

The killing was seen as a turning point in the struggle against apartheid as the African National Congress abandoned non-violent protests and launched an armed struggle against the white-minority government.

Analysts say the protests by poor and unemployed South Africans, many still living in shacks almost 16 years after apartheid ended, could intensify ahead of the soccer World Cup being held in Africa for the first time from June 11-July 11.

The government hopes the World Cup will inject billions of rands into South Africa's economy after vast amounts have been spent on upgrading infrastructure and building new stadiums.

Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analysts estimate that the World Cup could see about $1.1 billion flowing into the economy.

Motlanthe reiterated that the government aimed to improve the lives of millions of poor South Africans.

"We state that our democratic government undertakes to never ignore the plight of the poor, those without shelter, those without means to an education and those suffering from abuse and neglect," Motlanthe said.

President Jacob Zuma, who promised to improve the lives of the poor while campaigning for election last April, is facing an uphill battle to deliver on those promises soon after South Africa emerged from its first recession in 17 years.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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