Over one million to join shutdown

By Everson Luhanga and Zukile Majova

There is nothing normal about Monday 20 March.

This will be the only Monday in the history of South Africa when the state will be deploying every one of its almost 200,000 police officers to protect lives and property during a protest.

Add to that some 73,000 military personnel on standby, according to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise. The initial deployment of 3,474 soldiers hit the ground in different parts of the country, including Soweto on Sunday morning.

On the other side stand over 1.2 million EFF members, a party that registered 2.4 million supporters in the last elections.

This date will likely go down in history as the biggest chain of protests in democratic South Africa.

An estimated two million people are due to picket and protest in over 100 towns and cities around the country.

On Sunday there was seemingly a large police visibility across the country. Soweto and OR Tambo International Airport saw the army lining the streets.

In Gauteng, Tembisa, Alexandra and Diepsloot were not spared. There was a major deployment of law enforcement agencies.

Police were also seen confiscating tyres put strategically in place at key points like highways and busy roads in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

There is anxiety among citizens who are not sure what will happen on the day.

But one thing that is certain is that there will be a massive protest across the country.

The protest is an arrogant display of the rise of the second biggest black political party ahead of the 2024 national general elections.

Julius Malema, the ANC baby who was expelled from the party a decade ago, is back as promised to give the adults a flea in the ear.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who expelled Malema from the ANC, has described the so-called national shutdown as an attempt at regime change – a violent takeover of the state and the removal of its president.

“South Africa is governed by the rule of law. We are a constitutional democracy. Regime change can only come about through the vote.

“It cannot come about through anarchy, unleashing disorder in a country,” said Ramaphosa.

Twenty-four hours before the national shutdown, rural and township communities witnessed a welcome change with police patrolling in their areas.

Eskom reduced load shedding to stage 1 and later suspended it completely, a clear political response to the EFF protest against load shedding.

Police Minister Bheki Cele was in Durban where, during the 2021 July unrest, 42 police stations failed dismally to stop the looting and destruction of businesses. 

National Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Fannie Masemola was at OR Tambo International Airport where he addressed a police contingent deployed to the national keypoint.

The EFF leadership have said several times that the protest is well organised, with their branch leadership well informed to prevent anarchy and looting. But this will only be seen after midnight.

This is a developing story.

‪Pictured above: Julius Malema addressed the EFF Branches in Gauteng

Image source: @EFFSouthAfrica


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