Relief that #NationalShutdown was averted – SAHRC

Commission will continue to play its role in fostering social cohesion and monitor the situation

SAHRC Relieved that the #NationalShutdown was Averted, But Remains Watchful

24 August 2021

The South African Human Rights Commission (the SAHRC or the Commission), is aware of messages which circulated via social media calling for a #NationalShutdown, intended for Monday the 23rd August 2021.

The Commission notes with relief that these calls have gone unheeded. The Commission further notes that the South African Police Service (SAPS) and private security companies have collaborated to ensure that security measures were taken in an effort to prevent the large-scale carnage in the wake of prior unrest, during July 2021. The SAHRC is encouraged by the pro-active response by the SAPS and those private security companies who readied themselves to ensure the safety and security of persons and their property.

The Commission recognizes the rights to freedom of expression as guaranteed in section 16 of the Constitution, as well as the right to protest, as set out in section 17 of the Constitution. Both these rights, however, are limited to protect the human rights of others.

The right to freedom of expression is limited as not to extend to incitement of imminent violence or advocacy of hatred that is based on certain grounds, amongst many others. The Commission is thus concerned that some expressions advocating for the #NationalShutdown were xenophobic, could be deemed to incite violence and raised concerns for a repeat of the carnage we experienced during July 2021.

Protest action, as a right, is limited to peaceful gatherings, conducted in an unarmed manner. Further, it is incumbent on community and protest leaders to ensure, amidst an unrelenting third COVID-19 wave, that regulations are adhered to in order to prevent the further spread of the pandemic.

The Commission thus calls for calm, for all of us to strive to foster social cohesion rather than promote and exacerbate division and actions which may lead to violence, damage to property and the targeting of vulnerable groups. The Commission will continue to play its role in fostering social cohesion and monitor the situation.

Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission, 24 August 2021