South Africa


Courts, cops, private security and civil society put a halt to the EFF’s politics of violent insurrection

Courts, cops, private security and civil society put a halt to the EFF’s politics of violent insurrection
EFF leader Julius Malema during the national shutdown protest on 20 March 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

South Africa’s party of violence was on Monday stopped in its tracks as mostly peaceful protests were held across South Africa.

The five-year trajectory of the EFF’s politics of violence has been turned around for the first time as the attempted start of its “revolution” on March 20 ended in a day of mostly peaceful protests. 

The police, army, courts and civil society banded together to form a strong lobby against violence.  

By the end of the party’s attempted “national shutdown”, the EFF proclaimed instead that it was protecting the Constitution by peacefully marching against poor governance by President Cyril Ramaphosa (whom it wants to step down) and load shedding, which it said must end.  

The country enjoyed a weekend reprieve from advanced-stage power cuts, but the utility warned on Monday that the grid was again under severe pressure.  

Two court interdicts at the weekend set the ball rolling. The Western Cape and Johannesburg high courts affirmed the right to protest and refused blanket interdicts to the Democratic Alliance, but both courts interdicted violence and intimidation. The Johannesburg High Court added that the EFF had to inform all parties it had warned to close shop about the interdict and that it had to commit to peaceful protest on its powerful social media and, in general releases to the mass media.  

The interdicts against violence put the EFF on the back foot, as did social opprobrium.  

Defend our Democracy warned that a violent shutdown would deepen South Africa’s poly-crises, and its voice was influential across the robust civil society sector. Businesses spoke up too. Cabinet adopted a zero-tolerance, boots-on-the-ground position, and NatJoints (a security structure of police, intelligence and other government departments) was activated. The SA National Defence Force was also deployed. 

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A timeline of violence 

Was it overkill? Not if you look at this graphic that Daily Maverick developed over five years to document the 10-year-old EFF’s descent into political violence.  

News24 reported that 33 EFF protesters were arrested at a Woolworths store in Sandton — marking a first in its long history of retail disruptions. In the past five years, the EFF vandalised H&M, Vodacom and Clicks stores with impunity; CEOs then met with party leaders, including Julius Malema, to smoke peace pipes. In September 2022, the EFF threatened to close Pick n Pay stores and got a meeting with CEO Pieter Boone. 

In January 2022, Malema and other EFF leaders “inspected” restaurants and checked staff registers to smoke out foreign nationals who worked there. It ignored three interdicts by small and medium-sized businesses to stop workplace interference. The EFF’s so-called Labour Desk acts like a trade union federation but is not registered.  


The EFF seemed shell-shocked as it faced a groundswell of resistance to what it planned as the start of a “revolution” on March 20. Malema is gearing up for power in 2024: the EFF has entered government in the Johannesburg and Tshwane metros and wants to run Ekurhuleni. 

More than one well-informed analyst has said the EFF leader wants to be deputy president in 2024 as an alliance with the ANC shapes up. But the resistance to violence by the state and the broader civil society sends a message about how far South Africans will tolerate force over persuasion. The party’s methodology of threat and its rhetoric of brutality and war may have reached the end of its natural life. 

Until now, this ideology has been pursued with impunity by the EFF. At Parliament, it has advanced on podiums twice: most recently on Ramaphosa at the State of the Nation Address in February; before that on Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan in July 2019. The party is facing charges for attacks on DA councillors in Johannesburg and Tshwane, the most recent in March 2023.  

It regularly attacks journalists, the most recent on eNCA reporter Silindelo Masikane on February 25. (See graphic for the rest.) Since it announced the national shutdown in January, EFF members have used social media to threaten violence, showing stacks of tyres and boxes of matches and going into shops to demand that owners agree to shut down. In Lenasia, an EFF-branded bakkie warned businesses to close or face looting.  

With the July 2021 deadly insurrection attempt in sharp focus, South Africans were on tenterhooks with anxiety ahead of March 20. Many businesses closed as a precaution.  

The party has a market among radical and unemployed young people, many of whom participated in the largely peaceful protests. But as a party of government now, the day has shown the EFF will have to do more for its constituents than engage in shutdown methods and violence. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Joe Soap says:

    In Cape town the police cleared the tyres. Durban and Joburg private security did. In ANC areas the private sector had to step in for Government. Shame on you ANC. The only good thing about this is the the ANC’s incompetence is forcing it to privatize. The part the ANC plays is continuing to shrink. Looking forward to the day is disappears completely.

  • Richard Bryant says:

    Well I can say Julius has done SA a great big favour. He has reset the standard for what is acceptable in a protest and have had the SAPS retrained on how to deal with any form of unacceptable violence or disruption to other people’s rights. SAPS can no longer just stand by and watch while a few people decide to disrupt the lives of many. Thank you Julius thank you!

    • Hulme Scholes says:

      Spot on bro’, more good than bad came out of this flaccid EFF attempt at “revolution” – people had enough of Malema.

      • Theart Korsten says:

        People may have had enough of him. But is remains a dangerous delusional power hungry wannabe dictator. Smoke and mirrors as the saying goes. There is nothing as deceitful and treacherous like a revolutionary leader who lives in the lap of luxury pretending to be “one of the struggling masses” he so blatantly uses to gain power! I hope his “Fighters” see the forrest for the trees before it’s too late!

    • John Smythe says:

      If only SAPS could perform at this level on a permanent basis, then our country may be in a better place in some respect. They could make the pavements and roads safer places to walk and travel.

  • rita smith says:

    If only the eff would come up with real solutions that are helpful and peaceful I’m sure they would have more supporters. People are tired of violence. They want a decent life. And violence doesn’t fit in to it

    • Glyn Silberman says:

      You forget that the EFF is not concerned about what the people want. It’s what they want that concerns them. And what is that? To be the top bods, to own the country and have us all scurry around beneath them.

      • D'Esprit Dan says:

        Absolutely spot on. Ironic that their cowardly ‘national shutdown’, organised on a day that many people took a long weekend and closed their businesses on anyway, was also the day before celebrating Human Rights Day – the public holiday to explicitly reject political violence and thuggery.

    • Sydney Kaye says:

      There is definately a place for an EFF without Malema, his fascist methods, his unworkable radical policies, his military ranks and red outfit to compete with the criminal ANC. I wouldn’t vote for them but it would have a constituency

    • John Smythe says:

      Real solutions will be contrary to the EFF manifesto. Land expropriation without compensation, nationalising banks and mines, free education for all (even tertiary – goodness knows where they’ll get the money) and many other issues that will kill the country. They are a far right fascist movement that will successfully chase away all capital (black and white), and kill SA…. something akin to their ability to organise a “national shutdown”. So, if they had real solutions that would be attractive to capital staying here, increase investment, and make SA a better place for all means that they’d have to be realistic and sensible.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Malema has always been a busted flush surrounded by similarly empty vessels and it’s starting to show. You can only BS people with luddite tripe for so long before you’re exposed for the paper tiger that you are – and with VBS making a timely return to the headlines for Shivambu it reminds people that the WFF has no interest in the people and progress, just a naked grab for power and the perks that power brings. Their ‘movement’ is more squeaky bowel than glorious revolution.

  • Anne Gaisford says:

    What have been the outcomes of the various charges of harassment laid against the EFF by journalists, Gordhan, etc?

  • Jennifer Jelsma Jelsma says:

    If we learned one thing from the shut-down, it was that NatJoints can work quickly and efficiently. A big improvement from July 2021 and a warning to future insurrectionists.

  • William Dryden says:

    Malema is a clown, but a dangerous clown, he is not fighting for the poor, he is fighting for himself. The red overalls and wellington boots are supposedly to align with the poor working class, while Malema lives in an upmarket suburb, wears European designer clothes, attends lavish party’s overseas whilst drinking expensive liquor.
    When will the masses he is supposed to be fighting for open their eyes to what he is doing for them. Nothing??

  • Clive Simpkins says:

    Excellent summary. I suspect most patriotic South Africans are tired of Malema’s self-serving grandiosity and destructive shenanigans.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The author makes no pretence for her hatred of the EFF and ignores the substance of the protest action that is constitutionally protected. Protests are very important for active citizenry to hold governments to account. By their very nature they can be very violent like the Black Lives Matter protests. The Trumpian approach to protest by this journalist who knows that taxis and their association have never during the struggle supported any mass action and their non – participation as permanent sell outs was not surprising to us as former freedom fighters. We used to ignore them and their violent threats that we were equal to. Even now we were would have been surprised for permanent government stooges to have joined a march. The legal and judicial thuggery of
    the courts was expressed in NewzRoom Afrika by the child Minister called Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. He had threatened bus companies not to ferry the EFF protest supporters as they would use the NPA and courts to impound their busses for over 12 months in contrived legal and judicial thuggery that we saw from ANC judges in Gauteng and DA judges in the Western Cape. Nobody who has been in the trenches of the struggle would ever codone an attack on journalists be it by the EFF or the ANC. It is plainly wrong and unacceptable as we owe it to journalists that we know about the corruption and ANC misrule. It does not detract from the fact that the protest action was a success to the chagrin of EFF and mass action detractors.

  • Trevor Jones says:

    Pleased that the government avoided giving EFF a “Sharpeville” incident, which would have added more fuel to the fire.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    That Monday was without violence is no reason for complacency. The EFF is a fascist party with fascist rhetoric and fascist attitude. The ANC is so bloody useless, it is frightening. Just one example, two crime fighters get killed and no comments by the president. This clearly indicates that he doesn’t give a shit about protecting whistleblowers. This lack of character also tells us that 2014, to save its skin, the ANC might get into a coalition with the EFF. If that happens, SA is truly doomed.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      I think you mean 2024 ? No … it is consistent with the RET faction (quite big but ‘hidden’ in the ANC ranks) insofar as where the EFF originated from. Shivambu’s ‘speech’ yesterday about encouraging the saboteurs within Eskom (which CR’s new energy czar was co-incidentally doing publicly yesterday – placating them) and getting Russia and China to ‘take over’ energy supplies here … is a clear (consistent with the Manatashe stance) indication of the general move in the ANC towards fascism. Madiba’s clear sighted view of this danger (different from the notion of ‘neutrality/non-alignment’) and non-racialism … has obviously been cast aside ! He understood that ‘negotiations’ was about give and take … and not a winner takes all. Unfortunately that ‘generation’ of ethical leadership has been replaced by self-serving ‘cadres’ to which Temba Godi’s stupid utterances yesterday, adds substance. The ‘alliances’ in the offing next year will not broaden democracy … but usher in autocracy. That unfortunately is the trajectory within many current democracies. The last bastion of resistance to that trend has been (for how long?) a relatively ‘independent’ judiciary.

      • John Smythe says:

        One can only hope that the DA becomes the king maker and the ANC comes to its senses and understands the terrible consequences of a coalition with the EFF.

  • Hester Dobat says:

    The first of many bloody noses for EFF. It is time they stopped shouting and start growing up.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    At the time I was amazed when senior managers of Clix and P n P and others sat at a table grinning with these mobsters. They should have been at the police station or preparing a private prosecution.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    OK, now that the EFF carnival is done and dusted, we can get on with life. the EFF wear red to hide the embarrassment they suffer from as everything they do turns into a joke, if it was not a joke to begin with. there was nothing gained by this protest as with all the others and what this mob should do is focus on being part of building this country that they have helped destroy with their on/off love affair with the ANC and stop taking people for fools. by the way they strat by paying back the money they stole from VBS!

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    I have questions…
    1) who is financing the EFF?
    2) why are members who behave aggressively, use hate speech, encourage racism and xenophobia not prosecuted and jailed when ordinary citizens who do the same are?
    3) who is directing the EFF online traffic?
    4) who is printing and providing the t-shirts, caps etc worn by the supporters?
    5) who organised the huge supply of tyres and from where did they come?
    So many questions….and no answers to be found!

  • Jacci Babich says:

    We are so sick and tired of Julius the Destroyer. He is a megalomaniac. Using jobless and seemingly mindless followers, eager to grab the opportunity to loot and burn with impunity, he is quite happy to trample anything and everyone in his path in his desperate quest for power and money. And what is this lawlessness costing us? We have had enough of you Julius you need to” pay back the money.”
    You and your lawless band of hooligans must be made to foot the bill for all the damage you cause as you ride rough shod over ordinary South Africans trying to keep the country going by working, creating, and striving for a better future for all. Collectively, you all need to be made to clean up the mess you leave behind and club together to pay for the man hours put in to keep law abiding citizens safe. It’s the people that count Julius, those who work and endeavor to keep this country going, not Mafioso like you.

  • Jonathan Hendey says:

    I suspect that what is happening is a bit more complex than what the article and some comments portray. The bad EFF was not merely stopped in its tracks by good South Africans. The EFF has a real constituency, and studies it carefully. That constituency is often caricatured as an angry, frustrated and destructive young mob – but they are real South Africans all the same. I may be wrong but I think the EFF has sensed some change, maybe even a degree of maturation or sobriety in some corners of its market, and that it needs to adjust to keep or grow that constituency. I am not arguing anything miraculous, just that (in addition to being stopped) they are also capable of calculation and adaptation.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      My thinking exactly…there is organisation and funding behind this political party and it appears to be maturing – a real cause for concern, in my opinion.

  • John Forbes says:

    One would hope for a change of attitude and lightened of the general South African attitude after yesterday.

    We can all work together, a radical revolutionary cult is not typical of the country, the police can be proactive and protect the citizary. Perhaps too much to hope for?

  • John Forbes says:

    One would hope for a change of attitude and a lightening of the general South African attitude after yesterday. We can all work together, a radical revolutionary cult is not typical of the country, the police can be proactive and protect the citizenry. Perhaps too much to hope for?

  • Epsilon Indi says:

    Who in their right mind creates a diagram that flows from bottom to top, when everyone in the western hemisphere reads from top to bottom. Is it the arrogance of the journalist that does such a thing believing that they are so special they can violate western reading norms or is the journalist just stupid ?

    • Alan Paterson says:

      Oh please, I am sure that readers had no difficulty following the diagram. Most of us are reasonably literate. Arrogance, stupidity? What bollocks!

    • Graeme de Villiers says:

      Are your feelings still hurt because your pathetic march yesterday didn’t work?

    • Paul T says:

      Yoh, what a wild and vexatious comment about something so minor. Are you sure you are ok? If you can get so angry about the flow of an infographic I shudder to imagine what you must go through in something more serious, like heavy traffic.

  • John Smythe says:

    Flop! Dead! I would be ashamed to show my face as the CiC to my command structure.

  • Roger Lee says:

    There has been no comment about the thousands of hard working people who had to forego a days wages they cannot afford to lose because they had been scared by the EFF rhetoric. Cruel.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    And in Cape Town, rain stops play 😀

  • Anthony Sturges says:

    EFF’s Burst Bubble

    The much-vaunted social action by the EFF to get rid of Ramaphosa and load shedding came to … nothing! Malema’s intemperate pomposity, before and during the call for mass action, betrays a despairing organization, desperately seeking relevance before the elections in 2024.

    ‘The court interdicts against violence put the EFF on the back foot, as did social opprobrium.’ according to The Daily Maverick. I believe that the general public has become inured to the EFF’s rhetoric.

    This relatively poor showing does seem to highlight their irrelevance.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Really interesting article and Timeline. Thank you.

  • Jeremy Doveton-Helps says:

    It strikes one that the EFF’s reactionary paranoia-populism, with thinly-veiled violence as its only ‘go-to’ formula, is little more than the AWB in diametrically opposite.
    How tragically ironic that we finally rid the country of Eugene, only to end up with Julius – a ‘leader’ of similar ilk – them that base their dubious credibility on over-blown threats and empty promises. On the toxic cocktail of fear, hate and vitriol, without any shred of constructive or creative policy-thought.

    • Cally Heal says:

      Yes. Ironic indeed. One dangerous clown, Eugene, leaves the political stage and another, supposedly at the other end of the political spectrum but with the same kind of hatred of those opposed to him , arrives in the form of Julius. Politics through and through. This dangerous man must NOT get anywhere near the top job.

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