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Concern and apprehension in KZN ahead of Monday’s ‘national shutdown’ attempt by the EFF

Concern and apprehension in KZN ahead of Monday’s ‘national shutdown’ attempt by the EFF
Looters in Spine Road behind Pavilion Mall in Durban on 12 July 2021.(Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Communities in KwaZulu-Natal are apprehensive ahead of Monday’s ‘national shutdown’ spearheaded by the Economic Freedom Fighters. The police say they will be out in full force to maintain law and order.

The call by the EFF for a national shutdown on Monday to demand the resignation of President Cyril Ramaphosa and to protest against load shedding comes when South Africa is experiencing debilitating challenges. These include unemployment, an economic meltdown, general lawlessness and a lack of decisive leadership across the spectrum.

Read more in Daily Maverick: How the EFF’s planned shutdown might play out 

This has raised concerns that Monday’s planned shutdown could lead to violence, destruction of property and loss of life, similar to the 2021 July unrest

KwaZulu-Natal was the focal point of those riots, which started as protests against the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court, but turned into mayhem and looting which resulted in the deaths of more than 400 people, including 36 who died in Phoenix, allegedly at the hands of the local community, which claimed to have been defending itself against looters.

The EFF’s shutdown call has been joined by several organisations including the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu). Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets alongside the EFF.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

On Wednesday, EFF leader Julius Malema said the protest and marches would be peaceful, but warned that businesses that opened their doors on the day risked becoming victims of looting.

The planned shutdown will take place a day before the Human Rights Day holiday, and many businesses will be closed anyway, with their staff being given a long weekend.

On Thursday, Saftu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said his federation “fully supports” the planned shutdown as it also wants “to send a strong message to the powers that be” about the plight of workers and the poor.

Vavi told journalists that workers participating in the protest would be protected.

“This means we will galvanise and mobilise our members to join the national shutdown across the country. We have submitted a Section 77 notice to Nedlac [the National Economic Development and Labour Council] to protect all workers in and outside the federation. This means any worker, even if they are not members of unions affiliated to Saftu, will be protected from victimisation by employers,” he said.

‘A reckless exercise’

However, several organisations and formations have called the protest a “reckless exercise” with the potential to boil over into violence.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has taken the EFF to court over the planned shutdown, saying its legal action is against “intimidation and threats of violence” across the country ahead of the protest.

The EFF responded by calling this a “frivolous legal action” by an “attention-seeking” DA.

The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) has also condemned the proposed national shutdown, saying it would cause further damage to an economy already suffering from rolling blackouts, low growth and political and social uncertainty.

Prasheen Maharaj, the president of the DCCI, told journalists: “Businesses are trying to survive, and some are trying to resume their business operations following the 2021 July unrest and April/May 2022 floods, even with the current state of the economy due to the energy, water and sanitation crises.

“We believe a crisis cannot be resolved by using the proposed approach of a shutdown. Ours is to preserve the economy and protect the sustainability of businesses.

“The threat of a national shutdown has the potential to encourage acts of violence and potential vandalism on property and businesses, which is unlawful.

“Technically, it’s also a form of intimidation to the highest degree, and displaying an intention to commit violence and intimidation is a criminal offence. We firmly believe, if left unchecked and not acted upon by the government with urgency, it will send out the wrong message and give criminals the licence to loot, intimidate and destroy.”

Preparing for the worst

Some community groups have started to panic, while others are telling families and individuals to stock up on food and other essential goods, warning that the shutdown could be the start of an outbreak of violence similar to or worse than the July 2021 riots. 

A group of Indian leaders has been sending messages to social network groups populated by Indian people, telling them to “defend themselves, their families and their businesses” against looters.

One of these leaders, Vinesh Selvan, said they represent Indian communities across religious, professional, class and social strata and they decided to mobilise Indian people because they felt they would be vulnerable on Monday.

He said they sent the warning message after “an EFF politician” sent a voice note threatening the Indian community.

“We are saying the Indian people are under siege. We are saying to them, you have a right to defend [yourselves]. Do not act in fear, join your local community policing forums that work in conjunction with the South African Police Service and protect South Africa.

“We know we are being racially targeted and pushed out of jobs and denied opportunities in this country. Our biggest threat is our own politicians and business owners that sell us out, as seen in the last local elections when they canvassed for votes in predominantly Indian areas only to sell them to the ruling party for self-benefit of better seats in the municipality,” Selvan said. 

Police ‘out in force’

National police spokesperson Athlenda Mathe said lawlessness will not be tolerated and police will be out in full force to maintain law and order. 

KZN Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube called on protesters to exercise restraint and avoid unlawful behaviour.

“It is also the organiser’s responsibility to ensure we are supported and demonstrators abide by the law. Contravening the law will be dealt with,” she said.

Xolani Dube, a Durban-based independent political analyst, said he did not believe there would be violence and looting on Monday.

“It is not the first time that a political organisation has called for a complete shutdown of the country and nothing has come of it. This one by the EFF will not be different.

“We have seen social media mobilisation, media releases and press conferences. For me, these are all electioneering by Malema and the EFF. They want to test their strength. The fact that the strike is scheduled for a day before the public holiday is telling, because people were not going to go to work anyway.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Saps will be “out in full force to maintain law and order” : like last July. Look how successful the full force of the SAPS is. Wheehee. Viva, EFF, Viva!

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The concern is highly misplaced and has no basis. The organisers of the shutdown are not faceless individuals or group but a legal parliamentary party that has announced the shut down and marches. The July 2021 ANC led looting was faceless and the ANC failed to take responsibility and even action against it deliberately as Cele was talking nonsense all over TV News. This shutdown is legal and threats by the ANC government and SAPS thugs are unconstitutional and illegal and must be ignored. The EFF leadership has announced this and gave details in a press conference. The people behind the July 2021 looting were said to be known and in government sight by the incompetent Cyril Ramaphosa and to date we have yet to see the arrest of ANC people behind that looting . The EFF never announced a looting by a legal shut down with legal demands. We never heard the rubbish of Ramaphosa and one Ntshavheni when there were calls for Zuma to step down even by senior ANC cadres including a retired judge. This includes ANC leaders foundations. We do not buy the Ramaphosa nonsense. Calls for leaders to resign are part of the normal democratic right of citizens and the EFF is correct to call for an incompetent leader to resign. When it was Jacob Zuma with Mantashe defending him it was correct when it is a Cyril Ramaphosa it is wrong it cannot work that way. When people tell you to use proper channels it is because they are in control of those channels. The EFF shutdown is very much appropriate.

    • John Smythe says:

      The problem here is that the vice president and the EFF are too friendly. That’s what this is all about. The chink in the armour. The ANC is so good at self-destruction.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Hmmm…one has to wonder if the ANC and EFF are actually already political partners …one playing “ good cop” and the other playing “bad cop”. They’re going to for. a coalition anyway next time around it seems, but perhaps a few party games first to push those that believe in democracy to vote for the ANC to keep the EFF out! Anything is possible these days where there is no moral compass and our leadership is weak and on the back foot!

  • John Smythe says:

    It’s pointless trying to reason with someone who is hell-bent on causing chaos and destruction. Cutting the head off the snake is the only thing that works. But the ANC won’t throw their sister into jail. So, people of reason need to defend themselves.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    Both Malema and Vavi say they are acting in the interests of workers and the poor, but know that such activities result in greater unemployment and increased poverty. But not for them!

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