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The National Commissioner (NATCOM) of Police, William Dlamini, has come out with a dismal attempt to correct himself on the war cry he issued on Friday when threatening to unleash the full might of the law on those who would defy the ban on delivery of petitions at tinkhundla centres.

However, his so-called clarification only serves to confirm that police were prepared for war with members of the public. What he should concern himself with right now is accepting his fair share of responsibility for inciting conflict between the people and security forces which has left a trail of destruction to property and injury to people. The other share of responsibility has to be carried by the Housing and Urban Development Minister Prince Simelane who called upon authorities to fight fire with fire. Government refused to retract the statement despite public condemnation for its propensity to incite violence. Consequently, the protesters have followed the dangerous advice of the minister and look what that has brought us.

The Acting Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, added his fair share of fuel to the fire by banning what had largely been a peaceful delivery of petitions, for no valid reason other than refusing to be told of the government’s shortcomings. It could certainly not have been for COVID-19 infection concerns because the organisers of the petitions may have simply been advised to adhere to the regulations on numbers and social distancing – particularly because other events around the country were not barred despite carrying similar threats. The less said about the attempt to use the Constitution to deprive people of their right to express themselves, the better. These are further signs that government is making the wrong decisions because it is not in tune with the people.

If it were, Cabinet would be listening to, among other things, the ongoing calls to suspend the E1.6 billion Parliament building loan which has a condition compelling government to source more than 60 per cent of the material for this project from India. How does that lift the economy or serve as investment into the future of our youth? This is a perfect example of what the youth are complaining about? They carry the burden of the decisions being taken today such as paying back a loan that is of little or no benefit to them. They have more urgent needs like education, health and jobs and, therefore, deserve to be heard. Banning the petitions is to shut the door of engagement in their faces.

Now that they have shown that violence cannot silence them, government ought to do the right thing and allow them to express themselves peacefully then work on placing a table for dialogue from which it can take decisions that reflect a government that is committed to serving the best interests of the people. None of us want to see this country burn beyond this.

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