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Show of force ahead of Monday’s planned national shutdown

Show of force ahead of Monday’s planned national shutdown
Economic Freedom Fighters supporters protest at the Pretoria CBD during a ‘State capture’ march on November 02, 2016 in Pretoria, South Africa. Political parties and civil rights society groups gathered across the country demanding that President Jacob Zuma step down, amid the release of former Thuli Madonsela’s ‘State of Capture’ report. (Photo: Gallo Images / Thapelo Maphakela)

‘Having learnt from its lessons’ after the July 2021 riots, the government says it’s ready for anything. The SANDF has been deployed; and Cele promises the police ‘will be out in their numbers’.

State departments, which were accused of gross inaction during the deadly and destructive July 2021 riots, have reiterated they are up to the task of protecting the public in a show of force, ahead of threatened protest action on Monday.  

“To say there will be a national shutdown is misleading. Everything from business to services will be fully functional and operational and accessible,” chairperson of the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints), Lieutenant-General Tebello Mosikili said on Friday evening.

“We are not going to allow lawlessness and acts of criminality. Those who are found to be on the wrong side of the law, will be dealt with accordingly,” Mosikili said,  giving an update on the NatJoints preparedness ahead of the shutdown. 

On Thursday, the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster assured the public that it was “fully prepared” to deal with any disruptions on Monday, and pledged that “no form of violence and criminality will be tolerated”. 

The demonstatable show of force from the government ahead of the EFF’s planned shutdown on Monday seems to be a somewhat misguided attempt to make up for its “unequivocal” failure to protect the people during the looting mayhem that engulfed KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July 2021. 

Nearly two years on, many of the instigators of the unrest have not been brought to book. 

“What will be different this time is that there is more focus and more intensive planning – not that we did not plan in 2021 – but we have planned better, because every situation, every incident is a [learning curve] in how to move forward […]. So we have learnt our lessons in 2021 […]. We have planned accordingly to respond to those elements of surprise that might arise,” said Mosikili. 

Since the EFF announced its intention to bring the country to a standstill on Monday in a planned national shutdown, there have been growing concerns about the nature of the march as the government, business and civil society lament the possibility of the protest action turning violent. 

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

Mosikili said security would be heightened at the country’s ports of entry, and the security cluster would also be closely monitoring national, provincial and municipal roads. This comes after various community police forums and neighbourhood watches said they had noticed car tyres that had been dumped in certain areas, potentially to block roads. 

“Public violence, the burning of tyres and placing of rocks and debris to blockade roads, as well as looting will not be allowed,” she said.

Flexing his muscles on Thursday, Police Minister Bheki Cele said that law enforcement officers would be “out in their numbers” on Monday, to protect anyone who wanted to travel, go to work or conduct business. 

“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,” he said. 

Cele, who survived Ramaphosa’s Cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, has faced mounting criticism for failing to do his job. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Bheki Cele in the firing line of critical class action against police over the smuggling of guns to gangsters

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has also been deployed to assist the police and other departments “in anticipation of the planned national shutdown” on Monday. 

SANDF national spokesperson Brigadier-General Andries Mokoena said on Friday that the SANDF’s deployment followed intelligence reports from provinces. 

He said the primary focus of the SANDF deployment would be to render:

  • “Protection of national key points under threat as per prevailing intelligence/information on hand per respective ProvJoints.
  • Response to situations which go beyond the control of the law enforcement agencies in support of the police as determined by the respective ProvJoints.”

SANDF troops will be deployed from Friday, 17 March, to mid-April, according to Mokoena. 

Court interdicts 

The Western Cape High Court, on Friday, granted the City of Cape Town an interdict against “any attempts to incite or participate in looting, vandalism, intimidation and disruption” as part of the EFF’s national shutdown on Monday. 

The City announced on Tuesday this week that it had filed an application for an interdict, Daily Maverick’s Suné Payne reported. DA leader John Steenhuisen is also seeking a separate interdict to stop the shutdown.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said that while the City “fully recognises” the right to democratic protest, this did not extend to threatening the rights and freedoms of others.

“We will enforce this interdict and uphold the rule of law. Should any damage to public infrastructure occur, the City will not hesitate to lay a civil claim against the EFF. There will be no national shutdown in Cape Town; our economy does not have time for that,’ Hill-Lewis said.

Mounting opposition

The EFF’s planned shutdown has been opposed by members of the public, political parties and multiple civil society organisations. On Thursday, a collective of 38 civil society organisations – including Defend our Democracy, #UniteBehind and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation – called on law enforcement to act against any form of intimidation or violence that may unfold. 

Read in Daily Maverick: EFF’s national shutdown plan – another publicity stunt with near-zero chance of becoming reality

The organisations condemned the EFF’s plans, saying attempts of “fear mongering and forced shutdown of the country” infringed on people’s constitutional rights. 

On Friday evening, Mosikili said that while everyone had a right to protest, “this right must be exercised in a manner that does not infringe on the rights of non-protesters”.

“Prohibiting people’s freedom of movement is a criminal offence. We will therefore enforce the law decisively in this regard,” she said. 

Transport associations including the National Taxi Alliance, the Road Freight Association and the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) have also rejected the EFF’s calls for a shutdown. 




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