South Africa

'SHUTDOWN' SHOWDOWN

No major incidents in KZN after police shadow EFF protesters through Durban’s streets

No major incidents in KZN after police shadow EFF protesters through Durban’s streets
EFF members marching along Dr Pixley Kaseme Street in Durban under tight police security during their national shutdown 20 March 2023. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

Most parts of KwaZulu-Natal — especially hotspots like Durban’s Phoenix township — were on high alert on Monday morning ahead of the attempted ‘national shutdown’ by the Economic Freedom Fighters.

By early Monday evening, no major incidents of violence had been reported in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) as the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF’s) protest marches were held relatively peacefully. 

The nationwide protests were demanding the resignation of President Cyril Ramaphosa, an end to load shedding and the curbing of high levels of crime. 

There was a heavy deployment of SA Police Service members, Durban Metro Police and private security personnel in hotspot areas from as early as Friday morning.

Read more in Daily Maverick:Concern and apprehension in KZN ahead of Monday’s ‘national shutdown’ attempt by the EFF”  

On Sunday evening, roads were blocked in several areas around Durban. A number of cars were stoned on Link Road, which links Chatsworth with Shallcross, and police arrived to restore calm. 

By Monday morning the area was calm and municipal workers were busy clearing the debris and burnt tyres. 

KZN provincial police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi told journalists police were ready for any eventuality. He confirmed that police had made some arrests between Sunday and Monday morning in connection with the protest. 

“These few arrests have affected people who are blocking the road, refusing to disperse, and other than that it is just normal crimes. [Police] have been recovering firearms as they do stop and searches,” he said, adding that the deployment would be in place until the situation had been stabilised. 

“As KZN police, we haven’t received any notice for marches. We don’t know what they are going to do next, but we remain alert,” Mkhwanazi said. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Bus pelted with stones, Malema leads march to Union Buildings, with scores arrested in parts of SA” 

EFF members marching along Dr Pixley Kaseme Street in Durban under tight police security during their national shutdown 20 March 2023. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

EFF members marching along Dr Pixley Kaseme Street in Durban on 20 March 2023. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

EFF members during the national shutdown march on 20 March 2023. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

EFF protesters on 20 March 2023. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)


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Prepared for any eventuality

Police, law enforcement and private security personnel were out in force in the Durban CBD, prepared for any eventuality to avoid a repeat of the July 2021 unrest that resulted in wanton violence and looting and led to the deaths of more than 350 people. 

The Durban city centre was quiet on Monday, but some food outlets were open, including along the route of the planned EFF march on West Street. Daily Maverick reporters following the march reported about 200 supporters present, which increased as marchers entered the city centre.

Most foreign-owned shops were closed. Some people took the opportunity to go to the beach and have an extended long weekend. Others watched the march from their windows or balconies. 

Scores of police officers, their counterparts from the Durban Metro Police and security guards — some wearing plainclothes and communicating with walkie-talkies — waited for the marchers at every intersection. Police officers and private security personnel travelled in armoured vehicles in front of, alongside and behind the EFF march. 

Before leading the march at around 10 am from the EFF’s KZN provincial office in Berea, Marshall Dlamini, the EFF’s secretary-general, told the marchers that they must not be intimidated by the strong presence of the police and security guards.

“Today we are going to take control of Durban. We will also be going to Phoenix after the march to see how the situation pans out there,” he said. 

Phoenix is the predominantly Indian township north of Durban which erupted into racial violence after the July 2021 violence, resulting in the death of more than 36 people —33 black Africans and three Indian people.

Read more in Daily Maverick:‘Still suffering with no end in sight’ – Phoenix survivors relive horrific vigilante attacks of 2021” 

Marchers braved the hot sun while marching through the city centre into the Point and Durban beach area. Some onlookers in high-rise student accommodation buildings dropped water bombs on the marchers. 

Later in the afternoon, there was a standoff between the marchers and the police, when the police prevented the marchers from going down Florida Road. After a lengthy argument between the police and Dlamini, a compromise was reached.  

Most of the small shops were closed around the Durban city centre on Monday during the EFF shutdown 20 March 2023. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

Shops were closed around the Durban city centre on Monday during the EFF national shutdown march on 20 March 2023. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

A few shops were open on Monday on Dr Pixley Kaseme Street in Durban during the EFF national shutdown on 20 March 2023. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

A barricade in Phoenix

But the EFF did not march to Phoenix. When the Daily Maverick team arrived in Phoenix on Monday afternoon, a group of men manning a barricade on the outskirts said they were ready to meet EFF violence with violence. Most of them wore bulletproof vests and had handguns, while automatic weapons could be seen in some of their vehicles. 

At a manned patrol spot in Phoenix, Democratic Alliance ward councillor Samier Singh downplayed the presence of the armed men. He said they were peaceful men who were members of the Phoenix Community Policing Forum and had been “vetted and fingerprinted” and trained to work together with the police “to bring about law and order in our communities”. 

Mark Nadasen, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Community Policing Forum, said that since the July 2021 violence local communities had been working with the police and the neighbouring African informal settlement communities of Bhambayi, Inanda and KwaMashu to find lasting solutions to common problems like crime without resorting to violence. 

He said the police were actively monitoring the activities of the community policing groups.

“What the EFF is fighting is also what most of us are fighting for. We want to put an end to load shedding and the water shortage. We are also not happy with the lack of leadership, we are not happy about the high levels of crime. 

“So, if the EFF wants to come to Phoenix to protest peacefully, they are welcome and they will do that and leave peacefully. But we cannot guarantee anything if they come to demonstrate violently,” he said. 

Taxis and buses were moving relatively smoothly across Durban, but there were fewer passengers than usual as some had made other plans in anticipation of the protests, while others were able to take a day off ahead of the Human Rights holiday on Tuesday. DM

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