The ANC Youth League march for economic freedom has made slow progress towards the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in Sandton.
After departing the Chamber of Mines at 12.30pm the approximately 3 000-strong crowd had only reached Rosebank by 4pm.
The march has been a sombre one, barring some tempers flaring as supporters fought over bottled water lined up along the road by the league.
Malema calmed the crowd on several occassions, encouraging them to remain patient.
“We will get there, comrades, we are marching to the home of white monopoly capital and we will get there,” he said.
Demonstrators have remained steadfast as many declared their toil and sweat spent on the march signified their push for economic freedom.
“We know it’s not going to be given to us on a silver platter — this is what its all about. If we want change, it’s going to be a long struggle,” a marcher identifying himself only as Tshepang told the Mail & Guardian.
Several marchers engaged with journalists along the way, with Tshipa Sithole telling the M&G the march epitomises how he feels.
“You see we must make things equal — this is about sharing 50/50. I don’t want everything, I just want to be able to live a life like everyone else. We must work together to make South Africa a better place,” he said.
Emergency services were yet to report any incidences of serious injury barring several cases of heat stroke as marchers made their way from the Johannesburg city centre to Sandton.
Malema seemed remarkably reserved in his handling of tense situations during the march. As the procession stopped to rest on Empire Road earlier in the day, he scolded a group of schoolchildren who attempted joined the march.
“Comrades and police: Tell those children to go home, they don’t belong here. They must go home and study,” he said.
The marchers’ spirits started flagging just after 2pm as they entered Oxford Road in Killarney.
They stopped to wait for a water tanker as several people were dehydrated and at least five people had fainted.
The marchers were no longer singing and dancing, but shuffling along in the heat.
Some of the placards carried by marchers read: “The real freedom is economic not parliamentary. Free my people.”
Another with slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s picture read: “We salute anti-imperialist martyr Gaddafi”.
Others read: “90% of the economy is still in the hands of the minority” and “Malema we must stand by you through thick and thin”.
Juice and water was handed out as marchers reached the Rosebank Zone, and supporters resumed singing and dancing.
Gauteng police spokesperson Lt-Col Lungelo Dlamini said the march had been peaceful so far.
“There have been no disruptions since the march started. Everything is peaceful.”
Police and a private security company hired by the youth league were monitoring the situation.
Hundreds of spectators littered the route to catch a peek of Malema and other youth league leaders.
“This is so cool! I never saw something like this before, thse guys are marching for their freedom it’s so awesome,” said 17-year-old Lindsay Thorpe, as she snapped images of the procession with her cell phone.
Even comedian Joey Rasdien came out to see what all the fuss was about, but was turned away from the march when he tried to join.
“Ja man I wanted to jump in but they wouldn’t let me come in with my bike. It’s a laugh this thing, these guys take so many hours to walk from Johannesburg, but it’s good,” he told reporters, as he cradled his scooter helmet.
Meanwhile, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in Gwen Lane in Sandton was prepared with railing gates wrapped in black plastic sealing off its underground parking entrances.
Police in bakkies waited at the end of Gwen Lane, which was blocked at one end.
Once marchers had handed over a memorandum to the JSE, the plan was for them to be bussed to Pretoria where a night vigil was to be held prior to a march on the Union Buildings on Friday.
The JSE closes at 5pm, but a woman on the premises told reporters they would wait to receive the memorandum from the league.
The last mass action by ANCYL members happened outside Luthuli House in central Johannesburg at the start of Malema’s disciplinary hearing last month.
Youth league members threw rocks, bottles and bricks at journalists and police, and burnt ANC flags and t-shirts with pictures of President Jacob Zuma printed on them.
The march was taking place a day after testimony in Malema’s disciplinary hearing was concluded. He and several co-leaders face charges of bringing the ruling party into disrepute.
Earlier, the SABC reported that members of the Congress of SA Students (Cosas) had forced pupils from Alexandra and Soweto schools to join the march. — Additional reporting by Sapa