Friday is exactly 10 days before the National Day of Action called by South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which will be joined by other opposition political parties and trade unions such as the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), the United Democratic Movement (UDM), and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).
This week, the South Africa’s oldest political party, the PAC, also confirmed that it would be joining the EFF in the mother of all protests in a bid to put pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign amid rising costs of living, fuel prices, load shedding, crime, and other social ills bedevilling the country.
This comes just days after the union’s (Saftu’s) also confirmed that it will be joining the EFF on its planned national shutdown, earmarked to take place on March 20.
EFF spokesperson Leigh-Ann Mathys told The Star that this was not merely a march but a national shutdown, and the impact of such protest action globally results in change, though it varies from country to country.
“For example, in 2022, citizens in Sri Lanka shut down their country, which resulted in the resignation of the president and prime minister. In the same year, the Germans took to the streets, demanding energy relief. This resulted in a government rescue package,” said Mathys.
When asked whether her party thought that this would lead to the resignation of Ramaphosa, she said that the people would govern.
“When the people demand that he step down, it will be done. It is foolish to defy the people,” she said.
Mathys said the intention of the national shutdown has always been for all unions, religious groups, civil society organisations, and all citizens to be part of it. It is not just EFF members and supporters affected by load shedding and the endless list of other failures under Ramaphosa.
“It is sensible for all South Africans to be part of the national shutdown to fix the dire social and economic conditions that are suffocating us,” said Mathys.
Speaking to The Star, political analyst John Molepo said even though Ramaphosa wouldn’t resign due to the march itself, the shutdown would certainly work towards putting pressure on him while spreading the message to ordinary South Africans as to the realities of Ramaphosa’s shortcomings.
“This is not new coming from the EFF. They did the same when they marched against former president Jacob Zuma, who eventually resigned after mounting pressure across the board.
“This march is the EFF’s overall strategy to put pressure on the president to eventually resign. However, the president, much like Zuma, will not resign from external pressure alone. I think the president will only resign if there is pressure from within the ANC for him to step aside.
“This strategy works in the bigger scheme of things and will not have immediate results,” Molepo said.
Dr Levy Ndou said there was nothing wrong when ordinary citizens express their views about their daily lived experiences, adding that this upcoming national shutdown should be allowed to take shape as it represents the sentiments of the people who are affected by load shedding, corruption, and maladministration.
“Even though there have been similar protests against (Zuma) to step down during his tenure, circumstances have changed when compared to previous protests, as the protests were driven by Zuma the man, while this time around, there are serious matters that have been referred elsewhere this time around.“
Ndou said those who have come to support the EFF should be allowed to express their views over what is happening in the country.
“The shutdown shouldn’t be seen in a negative light as people are expressing genuine concerns that affect their lives, such as load shedding and the unemployment crisis. It would be unfair to criticise people for expressing their daily lived experiences.
“Other parties who have joined the shutdown are not doing so because they support the EFF, but because they find it difficult to organise a successful shutdown on their own.”
Saftu general secretary, Zwelizima Vavi, confirmed that they would also be participating in the national shutdown. He said that they would galvanise and mobilise the federation’s members to join from across the country.
Vavi said that they had submitted a Section 77 notice to protect all workers in and outside the federation.
“This means that any worker, even if they are not a member of any union, including the federation itself, will be protected from victimisation by employers when they participate in the national shutdown,” said Vavi.