EFF-led shutdown marred by arrests around the country

Chaos erupted ahead of the highly anticipated national shutdown organised by the EFF, earlier than anticipated.

The EFF has planned a “peaceful” march to protest against current rolling blackouts and the deteriorating economy, while also demanding for the resignation of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Despite the march being scheduled for Monday, protesters in several areas, including Pretoria, Soweto, Johannesburg CBD, and Braamfontein, took to the streets on Sunday evening.

Police officers were seen arresting people in Braamfontein in Johannesburg on Sunday, where law-enforcement agencies had cleared roads blocked with bricks and debris.

While reports indicate that those arrested had participated in a peaceful night vigil, video footage shows them being taken into custody forcefully. Another video shows police officers firing shots at a residential building window.

During a media briefing in Johannesburg on Monday, Police Minister Bheki Cele confirmed that over 50 people have been arrested.

“[The police] had to make a call for them to stop but they did not stop, so they had to use minimum kind of force,” Cele said.

“They used stunt grenades and fortunately there were no rubber bullets, that’s my information.

“People were arrested there, about 57 people have been arrested around the country in different provinces. Gauteng leads, Free State comes after and then it is Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

“There have been some issues of fires in some townships, Thembisa [in Ekurhuleni] and other areas, but at this point it seems like the situation is normal and people are going to work.”

According to the EFF, all the students who were arrested in Braamfontein have been released.

“All the students who were violently and illegally arrested by police in Braamfontein for peaceful protest have been released. The cowards of SAPS [police] who target young women will never win,” it said.

Under Operation Prosper, 3 474 South African Defence Force (SANDF) personnel are currently deployed on the ground to aid the police. Their deployment is scheduled to continue until April 17.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo confirmed on Sunday that the president has notified the Speaker parliament, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ngqakula, that the SANDF had been deployed for “the prevention and combating of crime, as well as maintenance and preservation of law and order”. 

“The deployment is in line with section 201[2] [a] of the constitution of South Africa of 1996 and section 19 of the Defence Act of 2002. An amount of R166 ‪562 058 is expected to be incurred for this deployment,” said Mothapo.

The EFF, however, lambasted the deployment, stating that it demonstrated “the blood thirsty nature of the current government and the intolerance of the ruling party to dissent and opposition”.

EFF spokesperson Sinawo Thambo said: “South Africa has degenerated into a military state, and the deployment of the army to suppress the constitutional right to protest, means we have returned to the dark days of apartheid.

“The current deployment of the army and law-enforcement agencies, has surpassed that of the Apartheid regime in the 1980’s during the state of emergency, meaning that Ramaphosa has declared war on the people of South Africa.

“The scenes of military personnel descending into the townships of South Africa, policemen searching the homes and cars of citizens without warrants or just cause, and shutting down tyre shops reveal a paranoid government that is capable of grave human rights violations.

“The international community ought to pay close attention to South Africa on the 20th of March 2023, because the government of South Africa has prepared itself to commit a massacre in defence of a corrupt president.”

Despite the tight security, the EFF has vowed to continue with the march.

“The EFF calls on the people of South Africa to come out in their numbers and join the national shutdown. No intimidation should prosper, and we must resist the tyranny of Cyril Ramaphosa, the same way we resisted the apartheid government. No retreat, no surrender,” concluded Thambo.


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