S.Africa condemns use of children as ‘human shields’ in protests
The South African government on Wednesday condemned the use of children as "human shields" by protesters, following a spate of deadly demonstrations over poor access to basic state services.
“Government has noted with concern a trend of using children as human shields during protests,” said government spokeswoman Phumla Williams.
Since the beginning of the year, violent protests have erupted almost daily in various parts of the country, as communities vent their anger over a lack of water, electricity and other essential services.
In some cases police have retaliated with live fire to disperse protesters who have at times set public buildings on fire and blocked roads with tyres and rocks.
Last month four people were allegedly shot dead by police during a protest over the water supply in a town outside Pretoria.
Also in January, a 15-year-old boy who was part of a rampaging crowd in a village outside the northern town of Tzaneen was shot dead when police opened fire.
Williams said a group of demonstrators led by teenagers had threatened to burn down a police station and municipal offices in a Bronkhorspruit, outside Pretoria.
“(We) urge parents who involve children in destroying public property and committing violence during protests to refrain from such behaviour,” she said in a statement.
South Africa is heading to the polls marking 20 years of democracy in the next few months, but the recent protests have brought back memories of the violent days of the apartheid regime.