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Security ministers vow zero tolerance, as civics warn EFF against ‘unconstitutional’ attempts to enforce a shutdown

Security ministers vow zero tolerance, as civics warn EFF against ‘unconstitutional’ attempts to enforce a shutdown
Thandi Modise, Ronald Lamola,Bheki Cele and Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, ministers of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster. (Photo: Ntswe Mokoena / GCIS)

The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster has assured the public that it is ‘fully prepared’ to deal with any threats or disruptions during the EFF’s planned national shutdown on Monday, while at least 20 organisations have criticised the party’s plans, saying any attempt to enforce a shutdown infringed people’s constitutional rights.

Amid public concern about violence and looting as the EFF’s planned national shutdown draws near, ministers of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster have said it will be business as usual on Monday, and pledged that “no form of violence and criminality will be tolerated”.

“Measures have been put in place to ensure that everyone who wants to go to work, travel for leisure and conduct business on this day does so in a safe and secure environment.

“Law enforcement officers will be out in their numbers to protect them, whilst enforcing the law. Anyone who intimidates, stops anyone from going to work, barricades the roads and highways and uses any form of violence to try and stop our people from going on with their lives, will face the full might of the law,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Thursday. 

Cele was speaking at a post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday morning, where ministers gave an update on the security cluster’s readiness for the shutdown. 

He said there “will be high police visibility”. 

“We will be closely monitoring the situation throughout the country, and will act swiftly and decisively against any threats or disruptions,” he said. 

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise confirmed that the South African National Defence Force was on standby too.

nomzamo park shooting

Minister of Police Bheki Cele. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

The EFF first announced plans for the shutdown in mid-January, to demand an end to rolling blackouts and for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s resignation. The party is calling on all businesses and industrial activity to cease on Monday, and for all workers and students to remain at home. 

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

There have been reports of EFF members issuing warnings to businesses to close on Monday, or face looting, sparking public concern about violence. The DA and the City of Cape Town are going to court in a bid to get interdicts to stop the shutdown, Daily Maverick’s Suné Payne reported

The EFF has also claimed there will be marches in major cities, although leader Julius Malema has said locations are deliberately being kept secret, to avoid the police. 

About this, Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said on Thursday: “The intelligence service is at work and we are confident that we have our information, and we equally will not reveal how we are going to handle that.”

Fomenting violence online

Ministers of the JCPS cluster warned against the use of social media to incite violence and mobilise people to join the protest. 

“We also want to caution against the spreading of messages of fear, intimidation or inflammatory statements that could incite violence. This is a criminal offence,” said Cele. 

He said that the security cluster is aware of many social media accounts claiming that “hundreds of thousands of followers are being mobilised to support the protest”.

“We are aware that social media platforms are being used to give credence to the protest, and want to encourage our people not to believe everything they read on social media.” 

The shutdown has been opposed by members of the public, numerous civil society organisations – including #UniteBehind, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Helen Suzman Foundation and Defend our Democracy – and political parties. 

“Every person in South Africa has the constitutional right of choice, association, movement, safety and freedom of expression, and the responsibility to similarly uphold the rights of others in this regard. Therefore, any attempt at preventing those who may not support the shutdown from going to work, to school or to university, infringes on their constitutional rights,” a collective of civil society organisations said on Thursday. 

“That democratic change and renewal is urgently needed in South Africa is beyond doubt. The choice of whether this will be through constitutional and democratic means or mass destruction is what the shutdown compels us to deal with,” it continued.

Transport associations including the National Taxi Association, the Road Freight Association and the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) have also rejected the shutdown.

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

The potency of social media as a medium to encourage criminal activity and instigate violence was evident during the deadly riots in July 2021. Nearly two years later, many of the people accused of instigating the riots have not been held accountable.  

Read more in Daily Maverick:March 20th: EFF’s Day of Thunder/Slumber is approaching, and SA is still nonplussed

On Thursday, Modise said that if there is a weakness in the security cluster, “it is that for a long time we have allowed people to use social media to plan to intimidate, and we have not followed up”.

She vowed that past mistakes won’t be repeated: “We want to assure you that this time we will not let it go.”

‘Irresponsible and reckless’

The Minister in the Presidency said on Thursday that Cabinet deemed the calls for a national shutdown “irresponsible and reckless”.   

Ramaphosa centred on the issues of load shedding, the cost of living and unemployment in his State of the Nation Address on 9 February. This month he appointed Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as Minister of Electricity, to oversee all aspects of the electricity crisis response, including the work of the National Energy Crisis Committee. 

“The implementation of the Energy Action Plan is under way in earnest and the Minister of Electricity will in the coming weeks announce Eskom’s performance targets towards ending load shedding,” said Ntshavheni. 

Minister in Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

“Therefore, the only demand which is the basis of this protest action is the plan to remove President Ramaphosa from office through unconstitutional means… Regime change through unconstitutional means will not be tolerated and it will not happen in South Africa.” 

Ntshavheni added: “Anyone with ambitions to govern this country must wait to contest in the 2024 general elections… We must also clarify that no amount of political adventurism should sway South Africans.”

As Daily Maverick’s Rebecca Davis laid out here, because Tuesday, 21 March is a public holiday, many people are planning to take Monday off anyway to have their first long weekend of the year. Monday is also a special school holiday, since Tuesday is Human Rights Day. 

Ntshavheni said it is clear that “there are attempts to claim easy victories”. 

“People should not be fooled. If people are not at work it’s not because they shut down… If people are not at work it’s because they are… on holiday.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    “We also want to caution against the spreading of messages of fear, intimidation or inflammatory statements that could incite violence. This is a criminal offence,” said Cele, who has not brought any of the kingpins to book. Cele, SAPS, and the ministers of the justice cluster have proven over and again that they and their administrations are a waste of space. Viva, EFF, Viva! You’ll get off scot-free like last time.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    We marched for the resignation of Jacob Zuma as President with the opposition parties including the DA along with the foul mouthed retired Justice Yacoob. We never heard any Cele or an obscure Ntshavheni saying anything. Lamola had a bold protest outside the ANC NEC. We do not know of any civil society group that is opposed to the shutdown except ANC allies. The calls for resignation of Jacob Zuma inside the ANC for state capture and corruption were very loud but the NEC stood behind him as they are doing with any wrong doing and incompetence by Cyril Ramaphosa in defence of their stomachs. They continue to do so now with SANDF and SAPS joining them in their unconstitutional rubbish that these unnamed civil society groups are accusing EFF of. The statements by Cabinet and their echo chambers are unconstitutional as they come. The necessity of going to the streets was demonstrated yesterday by the very unfit public representatives who ridiculed calls by the opposition to have a committee to investigate the allegation by de Ruyter on corruption that is behind the current blackouts that the EFF and SAFTU and other big civil society organisations are fighting. Parliament is very useless and will not do anything to investigate criminality by ANC leaders. Our history tells us that. They now want to bury the Office of the Public Protector that has been doing a better job in holding the executive to account under a charade of Section 194 Committee when the incumbent is leaving.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    I have to agree with Mr Bailey – the security services stood by last time and watched ( and possibly participated in the insurrection looting and violence) as 300 people lost their lives and many others their livelihoods! I’m sick and tired of empty ANC promises so am not holding my breathe this time around.
    The South African taxpayer has been through the mourning process – disbelief, fury,sadness and finally acceptance. We now accept that we’re on the skids and nothing/no one is out there to save this once proud, industrious beautiful country…there are just not enough of us to continue fighting the battle!

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