Violence in society originates from the apartheid system, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.
"I don't think as a nation we just became violent overnight. Violence is a direct consequence of apartheid. Apartheid was a very violent system. So violent that even if you peacefully demonstrated, they would shoot at you and kill you," Zuma said during The New Age breakfast.
"That caused the reaction from those who were oppressed to become very violent in fighting apartheid."
Zuma said the African National Congress was a non-violent organisation. However, due to persistent violence from the apartheid government, the party had to take up arms.
"Those who are demonstrating for example, because they are from that kind of situation that if you protest you are going to be shot at, so they are already in a sense full of readiness to do violence," Zuma said.
"If we have that background it means it is not a matter that we are going to deal with overnight. We are going to take time."
However, Zuma condemned violent protests. He urged citizens to respect other people's rights while exercising their right to strike.