South Africa has voiced its support for US protesters following the death of African-American man George Floyd in the hands of the police last week.
In a statement on Tuesday, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Dr Naledi Pandor also conveyed condolences to Floyd’s family and friends “on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the people of South Africa.”
She said, “Just as the people of America supported South Africa in its legitimate struggle against apartheid, South Africa too supports the clarion calls for practical action to address the inadequacies highlighted by protesters, civil society and human rights organisations.”
Call for maximum restraint
The protests have persisted for several days across American cities countrywide and have turned violent in some cases.
Pandor expressed concern that the violence could detract from “drawing international awareness to the legitimate concerns about violence against defenceless black people and other minorities in America.”
She conveyed South Africa’s call for US security forces to exercise “maximum restraint,” adding that Floyd’s death “presents the USA with an opportunity to address fundamental issues of human rights such as freedom dignity and equality.”
“Recalling the steps post-apartheid South Africa bravely undertook as part of its new constitutional dispensation, we are convinced that America – a beacon of freedom for many worldwide – has the ability to directly focus on healing and peace and achieve an outcome that prioritises respect for and promotion of fundamental freedoms for all Americans,” the Minister said.
ANC and EFF calls
Pandor’s statement follows a call from the African National Congress (ANC) earlier on Tuesday for the government and Ramaphosa to “engage” the US government on the matter.
“We urge our government, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, to engage with the American government through established diplomatic channels to defuse racial tensions and build social cohesion among different races,” the ANC said.
In a statement last week, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) similarly called on Ramaphosa to convene a meeting with US embassy officials “to call for the recalling of the deployment of the military in Minneapolis against protesters.”
Ramaphosa has not yet publicly commented on the matter. Some African leaders have however started speaking out.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a statement on Monday that he stood with “our kith and kin in America in these difficult and trying times.”
He added, “It cannot be right that, in the 21st century, the United States, this great bastion of democracy, continues to grapple with the problem of systemic racism.”
African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat also condemned the incident in a statement issued last week.
He said he “firmly reaffirms and reiterates the AU’s rejection of the continuing discriminatory practices against black citizens of the USA.”