/ 20 March 2023

87 shutdown protestors arrested, more than 24 000 tyres seized

Eff Protest
Eighty-seven protestors had been arrested for public violence-related offences since Sunday night. (Photo by Ihsaan Haffejee/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Eighty-seven protestors had been arrested for public violence-related offences since Sunday night, South Africa’s National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structures (Natjoings) said in a statement on Monday morning.  

In addition, at least 24 300 tyres that were “strategically placed for acts of criminality” had been seized. 

“Of the 87 [people] 41 were arrested in Gauteng, 29 in North West, 15 in Free State. There are also arrests in other provinces such as Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape,” according to the statement. 

Natjoints operates at a national and provincial level and comprises the police, state security, the national intelligence coordinating committee, correctional services and the National Prosecuting Authority, including other core members of the justice, crime prevention and security cluster. 

South Africa has been on high alert since last week as the “national shutdown” for Monday 20 March, called for by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), takes shape. The minority political party is demanding that President Cyril Ramaphosa steps down and that load-shedding ends. 

By 9am on Monday, sporadic incidents of small-scale violence had been reported throughout the country ostensibly related to the shutdown, which police had quickly contained. 

The EFF’s student contingent — some looking exhausted — could be seen gathering in small numbers at some local campuses in eThekwini on Monday morning, many of them having taken to the streets on Sunday night. 

EFF leader Julius Malema has touted the shutdown as the start of a “revolution”. 

He was tweeting and retweeting throughout Sunday night a series of video clips and photos showing empty streets, ostensibly to portray that the shutdown has been effective. “Now or never!” Malema tweeted, along with “Victory is certain”. 

Security services and the government have been providing citizens with regular updates about the shutdown, given their bungling of communications and failures during the deadly and economically devastating riots of July 2021, which were sparked by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court. 

KwaZulu-Natal was particularly hard hit by the July 2021 riots, which led to the deaths of more than 400 people — most of them looters. In the province’s only metro of eThekwini, the July riots cost the private sector R70 billion, according to the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The chamber represents 3 000 formal sector and more than 45 000 informal sector members. 

Fearing a repetition of the July 2021 riots, the province’s police, private security, community policing forums and neighbourhood watches have been coordinating to contain violence and potential looters. Police helicopters could be heard flying over Durban on Monday morning. 

On Sunday night, dozens of community patrollers were on the streets of suburbs hard-hit during the July riots, such as Umbilo and Berea. In areas such as Durban North, volunteers were manning private CCTV monitoring centres. 

Although Monday has been called a “normal working day” by authorities, many businesses have closed, as have schools. Tuesday is Human Rights Day, a public holiday, and many South Africans have taken Monday off work to have a long weekend.