On Monday, the EFF were expected to take the streets for their national shutdown, protesting the energy crisis and demanding that Ramaphosa step down.
EFF leader Julius Malema briefs the media on 15 March 2023 on the party’s planned national shutdown on 20 March 2023. Picture: Jacques Nelles/Eyewitness News
JOHANNESBURG – Protests flared up at a few centres around the country on Monday as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) embarked on its national shutdown.
In Braamfontein, Johannesburg, students began protesting on Sunday night, but the police intervened and they were dispersed with a few arrests made.
Apart from that, there was a high-security presence in the Johannesburg area – with Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department vehicles parked on street corners.
Meanwhile, in Soweto, protestors were lighting a few fires but there was little evidence of disruptions with isolated incidents.
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In Pretoria, it was still quiet.
Despite Marabastad being classified as one of the hotspots in the capital city, there was no sign of the red berets.
Taxis seemed to be operating as normal as they were guarded by members of the South African National Taxi Council.
However, rubble and debris could be seen scattered on the side of the road near the Tshwane market, even though there weren’t any EFF members on the scene.
Police were, in the meantime, monitoring the area saying they would prevent looting.
EFF members in Tshwane were expected to arrive in Marabastad with a march planned to head to the Union Buildings.
O.R. TAMBO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
The red berets also called for activities to stop at the O.R Tambo International Airport, but the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) said it’s business as usual.
The airport closed its roadway for passenger drop-offs and arrivals.
Eyewitness News understands this measure was instituted on Sunday night as a safety and security precaution for the planned national shutdown.
Vehicles for law enforcement agencies, diplomats and emergency services were being directed to separate routes.
There was a heightened police presence at O.R Tambo International Airport, with law enforcement officers at every access point.
Members of the South African National Defence Force were spottedm along with their armoured vehicles.
READ: SANDF on standby to monitor EFF’s national shutdown – Natjoints
Officers who spoke to Eyewitness News off the record said there were no incidents so far, however, they were monitoring the situation.
While the increased police presence slowed operations at the airport, staff members told Eyewitness News that they expected more traffic as the day progressed.
This week, Acsa, which manages all of the major commercial airports in the country said that all their airports would operate normally.
Acsa spokesperson Gopolang Peme said all security measures were taken to ensure the safety of passengers and staff at the airport.
EFF members visited the airport this week and advised it to close their operations.
In Cape Town, there were some isolated incidents.
A group of protestors gathered in Woodstock but were dispersed by the police.
Another group gathered in Borcherds Quarry but was pushed back by police towards Nyanga.
A South African Broadcasting Corporation crew member was injured and taken to hospital.
While in Parklands, a small group tried to intimidate workers at fuel stations, with an EFF supporter arrested.
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said that economic freedom could not be achieved if there was an interruption to economic activity.
READ: Monday a normal working day for Ramaphosa, says Presidency
However, the EFF was granted permission to march from the East City Precinct to Parliament on Monday morning.
Winde said while they respected the EFF’s rights to freedom of expression and to protest, this should not infringe on the rights of others.
“That’s why we’re here today, to protect the citizens, the law-abiding citizens, of our province, to make sure that they are able to go to work, to open their business. That is critical for me. If we want to fight for economic freedom, then we must keep the economy open.”
A protest was also reported in Gqeberha with a march at the beachfront.
Earlier, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the security cluster had not exaggerated its response to EFF’s planned national shutdown.
Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said that law enforcement agencies took every precaution to ensure Monday’s protest was safe for everyone.
“Businesses have been threatened with looting and other forms of violence should they continue to open and service the public.
“Now, in the face of those threats, the security forces are supposed to do what they need to do – that is to ensure that those strikes do not materialise.”
In addition, the Democratic Alliance (DA) turned to the courts to stop the EFF, who insisted that there would be no violence.
The party said it was protesting load shedding and was demanding that Ramaphosa step down.
But the DA wasn’t convinced.
On Friday, the Western Cape High Court granted an interdict against any attempts to incite or participate in looting, vandalism, intimidation and disruption of economic activity.
In Gauteng, the Johannesburg High Court interdicted the EFF from violating the rights of South Africans to work, go to school, and trade by any means of intimidation, violence or coercion.
But the court dismissed the DA’s application to have the EFFs national shutdown declared unlawful.
READ: EFF: ‘Joburg High Court ruling affirms our Constitutional right to protest’