SA prez denounces violent protests

PRETORIA: South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday again denounced the violence that has erupted in anti-poverty protests that have rattled the country over the last two weeks.

"There can be no justifictaion for public violence and the destruction of property," Zuma told a press conference, adding that his government would protect the public's right to peaceful expression.

"We respect and will protect that right as a developmental and progressive state," he said, echoing remarks made at the weekend.

Zuma spoke as protesters were throwing stones and petrol bombs in running battles with police using teargas and rubber bullets in impoverished Mashishing township in eastern Mpumalanga province.

Poor residents there have taken to the streets all day to voice their frustration at surviving the winter in flimsy shacks without power or water and demand better government services.

"It's still volatile. The people are still throwing stones and petrol bombs at the police," said police spokesman Leonard Hlathi. "We are still using rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters."

Similar protests have erupted in townships around the country over the last two weeks, pressuring Zuma who took office less than three weeks ago with promises to fight poverty in the country.