Political minnows join EFF’s national protest, but the big fish all give it a miss
The EFF’s attempt at a ‘national shutdown’ on Monday attracted several small political formations that united against a common enemy — the ANC government — but failed to rope in big political players, taxi associations and major worker unions.
As thousands of EFF supporters throughout South Africa left their homes to protest against the failures of the ANC government, smaller parties joined the picket lines in solidarity at the flagship rally in Pretoria.
Former president Jacob Zuma’s daughter Duduzile was among a handful of those at the forefront of the march in Pretoria. She did not wear any of the party’s regalia, but a white T-shirt branded, “We see you”.
Heading to the Union Buildings, marchers took several breaks as they listened to messages from other political formations, including the African Transformation Movement, United Democratic Movement, African Radical Economic Transformation Alliance, Land Party and Forum 4 Service Delivery, which heeded EFF leader Julius Malema’s call.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Bus pelted with stones, Malema leads march to Union Buildings, with scores arrested in parts of SA”
Gcobani Ndzongana, the president of the Land Party, thanked Malema for what he labelled a moment long overdue, in a country where millions of young people remained without jobs.
“Our young people are suffering; our people, the poor, particularly the young and black, are suffering because of the poor government of the ruling party. This is not a platform for cowards, it’s a platform for revolutionaries, people who understand why we are here. We are not going to be intimidated by Bheki Cele, by Fikile Mbalula who knows absolutely nothing but women and alcohol,” said Ndzongana.
“Those who are saying [the “national shutdown”] is a failure are talking absolute rubbish; it is a great success; this is a historic moment that needs each one of us to be on the streets.”
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
A Forum 4 Service Delivery (F4SD) representative said the organisation had joined the protest because of the government’s failure to deliver basic services to the majority of its citizens.
F4SD said that South Africa was faced with many problems, including load shedding, collapsing municipalities, water restrictions, potholes and unemployment, all of which were caused by the ruling party.
The organisation also took a swipe at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new Cabinet, particularly the appointment of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as minister responsible for women, youth and persons with disabilities.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Here they are — the long-awaited changes to President Ramaphosa’s Cabinet”
‘The ANC is dead’
The president of the African Radical Economic Transformation Alliance, Carl Niehaus, said: “All of us gathered here are speaking in one voice that Cyril Ramaphosa and his failed government must go. We want electricity now, we want to pay for electricity at affordable rates.
“We want to be sure that there will be service delivery for all the people of this country, we want clean, running water, a police service that fights crime. We want to ensure that the land is returned to the people. It is clear that the ANC is dead.”
Niehaus said he hoped the protest would not be a one-off event.
Niehaus, a Ramaphosa detractor, was expelled from the ANC after the party’s national disciplinary committee found him guilty of six misconduct charges. Despite already being expelled from the party, Niehaus announced he was resigning from the party post the December elective conference.
The biggest critics of the march were the ruling party and the official opposition, the DA.
The ANC on Monday issued a statement in which it lauded those who did not participate in an “extremist and regressive so-called shutdown”.
“The ANC acknowledges that everyone has the right to protest, and in line with the rule of law, all protest actions must be lawful. According to the Bill of Rights enshrined in our Constitution, no person or grouping may engage in an illegal protest action or impose their protest action on everyone who does not support it,” said national spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri.
On Friday, the Western Cape High Court granted an urgent interdict ordering the EFF and its supporters not to disrupt, harm or threaten people and businesses as part of the planned shutdown. The application for an interdict was filed by the City of Cape Town and Western Cape Premier Alan Winde last week and applies to the province.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Red alert – DA, City of Cape Town seek interdicts against EFF’s shutdown amid ‘threats’ of violence”
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.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) was the only worker union to throw its weight behind the EFF’s protest. Saftu’s largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, which has a membership of more than 100,000, did not participate, saying it had mobilised its members to attend the court proceedings in the electricity crisis case. The proceedings were, however, moved virtually in anticipation of the protest.
Sizwe Pamla, the spokesperson for SA’s largest and strongest worker union, Cosatu, said one of the reasons they did not take part in the protest was because they had already raised the same issues and did not want to divert from their mandate, which is to represent worker unions. DM