Unlawful arrests condemned in Limpopo shutdown

Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane

While the EFF has generally commended its members and supporters for coming in their numbers to demonstrate against President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration this past week, the party leaders in Limpopo have condemned what they called unwarranted police action.

Limpopo’s capital city, Polokwane, largely became a ghost town, with hawkers or shoppers barely in sight. Workers who were threatened with “no-work no-pay” notices largely pitched for work but had very few customers to support their employers’ businesses.

Despite the shutdown being labelled successful, the EFF registered a number of concerns, including intimidation from taxi drivers who sought to prevent the marchers from demonstrating peacefully.

Scenes of chaos were also recorded in areas such as Luthuli Park in Seshego and Maake in Tzaneen.

Limpopo Community Policing Forum (CPF) members have also been accused of intimidating protesters on the Eve of the national shutdown and forcing them to go back home.

To the EFF faithful, the march was justified, given the deterioration the country has seen since Ramaphosa took over from former president Jacob Zuma.

“It was a historic day, wherein the EFF was able to stand up for the less 

privileged and everyone bearing the brunt of unemployment, poverty, 

inequality, gender-based violence, and corruption amongst other man-made challenges.

“We strongly commend the EFF members for their high discipline throughout the demonstrations across the province, despite provocations and intimidations by some taxi operators against our members in Tzaneen, Burgersfort, and Jane Furse.

“It became evident that their motive was to defocus the EFF from succeeding with the peacefulness of the shutdown, therefore this behaviour must be condemned with the contempt it deserves,” said EFF provincial chairperson Tshilidzi Maraga.

EFF provincial secretary Mokwape Ramolobela condemned police for arresting peaceful protesters during the shutdown.

“Shopping malls were closed while transport services were halted, however some minibus taxis that insisted on operating were without commuters and remained with empty seats for the remainder of the shutdown.

“We note with utmost concern that some members of the EFF were arrested in 

the Capricorn and Waterberg regions for exercising their right to protest. In a democratic society, there should never be no-go areas.

“The EFF is a protest movement and our right to protest must be protected and respected. We send our sincere gratitude to the people of Limpopo for coming out in their numbers to support the EFF’s peaceful shutdown to demand the immediate resignation of Cyril Ramaphosa and an end to load shedding,” Ramolobela said.

Limpopo CPF chairperson Frans Kgasana denied the allegations of intimidation, stating that they were only on the lookout for any forms of public violence and vandalism of property.

Kgasana said their main duty was to stand guard at key properties such as schools, churches, government buildings, and places of business.

“We must remember that the CPF was created from a legislative framework that allows community members to become the eyes and ears of the police within the communities we reside.

“Limpopo has 104 police stations, but all those men and women serving and protecting our communities need people on the ground to help them. This is the role that we played successfully to prevent violence and vandalism.

“I can confirm that there were never any intimidation acts involving CPF members. We simply drove around hotspots and some protesters decided to retreat on their own when they saw our vehicles, especially on the Eve of the demonstrations,” Kgasana said.

Kgasana added that communication lines remained open between CPF members and police officers on March 19 and 20.

“Our CPF members never slept. We did this because of an incident that happened at the Sekhukhune Mall during the 2021 July unrest where there was chaos. Our mission was to ensure that such is not repeated.

“Of course, we learned about clashes between taxi drivers and protesters in Maake on Monday, but we rushed there and prevented violence from occurring. We were concerned that such violence would lead to the unthinkable,” he said.

During his media address on Wednesday, EFF leader Julius Malema condemned the unlawful arrests, stating that nine members of the EFF slept in police cells for having demonstrated peacefully.

He said this was a police method to intimidate other community members from joining the protests.

Malema also questioned the strength of the South African intelligence community following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s deployment of the army for a month.

Ramaphosa deployed the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in the wake of reports that the EFF’s national shutdown might result in anarchy characterised by looting, vandalism, and loss of life.

The deployment of more than 3 000 SANDF members will reportedly cost the taxpayers R160 million.

However, Malema has slated intelligence operatives for misinforming the president, which has led to what has been described as fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

“We are in parliament and we will be questioning the rationality and the deployment of soldiers and the amount of monies that are going to be spent on the soldiers that are on the streets now.

“From its beginning, the national shutdown was declared that it was going to be one day, and as to a month’s deployment, I don’t understand what informs that. Dealing with the criminals that we are dealing with, (it) might be an opportunity for them to loot.

“In the army, ordinarily, and in many instances, we never get to the bottom of how money gets spent in the army. That is where it is very easy for a corrupt government to exploit that opportunity and steal the money,” Malema said.

Malema said although they did not want to undermine the South African army, the president ought to have been better informed.

“It is for the South Africans to see that we have no president at all. We have no crime intelligence. We have no state security and we have no army intelligence because someone should have said to them, ‘Stop being jokes.’

“We started together when we were announcing the national shutdown. We announced it through you. Not once have we ever started talking about violence,” Malema said.

It is not the first time that the effectiveness of the South African intelligence community has come into question.

In July 2021, massive looting and destruction of property took place in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, resulting in the deaths of more than 300 people.

The riots, or what has been termed the July Unrest, followed the direct imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma by the Constitutional Court, which was accessed directly on behalf of State Capture Commission chairperson Justice Raymond Zondo.

Zuma was sentenced to prison for a period of 15 months.

The damage to infrastructure was estimated at R50 billion, leading to the South African Human Rights Commission warning that such events should never be repeated.

The security cluster was found wanting, with ministers blaming one another for failing to communicate about the riots before they happened.



Related Articles

African Times