Johannesburg - When Julius Malema led the Congress of South African Students march through the Joburg CBD in 2001, Christopher Sangweni fell victim to the rowdy schoolchildren who looted shops and smashed car windows.
Sangweni lost produce worth R1 300 at the time.
And when he heard the man now leading the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) would be leading a march to the Gauteng legislature, the Joburg street vendor took precautions.
“When Julius’s supporters protest, they do not do it peacefully, they do it violently. The last time they took some of my watches and hats.
“We don’t have a problem with their marching, but we’re also trying to make a living,” said Sangweni.
This time, protesters broke a few of his crates and a display table - but he had safeguarded his stock, packing up his stall the minute he heard of the protest.
He was not the only one.
A street vendor, who didn’t want to be named, said she was lucky the protesters only took one hat. She had packed up and didn’t realise that some stock was sticking out when protesters grabbed the hat and ran with it.
Also forced to halt operations was McDonald’s in Pritchard Street. The fast-food outlet said that they had to put the safety and security of their customers and staff first, resulting in them closing early.
“The restaurant was closed during this protest. However, it was only for a short period and the restaurant is open once again,” said Sechaba Motsieloa, corporate affairs director for McDonald’s South Africa.
But while staff members were inside, shielded by steel roller doors, protesters still smashed the window. McDonald’s would not reveal what it would cost to replace the window.
A KFC employee said they had to close an hour early, fearing intimidation and attacks.
“One guy took a brick and hit the door and tried to break the window, but he couldn’t. We had to lock the doors as they were trying to break in. The police arrived before they could open.”
Thembelihle Dlamini was warned to pack away her supplies before getting raided, but EFF supporters emptied rubbish on her display table.
“They kicked a plastic bag and the litter covered my table.”
Street vendors said they feared laying complaints and opening cases because of recent removals by the court.
“We are at their mercy… We’re not supposed to be here. We don’t want to be removed so we can’t complain,” said Dlamini.
In a statement, the Gauteng government condemned the behaviour of EFF supporters who stormed the provincial legislature on Tuesday, damaging state property.
The legislature’s Uhuru Moiloa described the behaviour as despicable and disgusting.
“South Africans have to see the party for what it is - a bunch of hooligans who don’t belong in government.”
He added that they had laid a charge of malicious damage to property against the party.