Members of disparate groups, political persuasions, races, creeds and classes were set to join together against the continued office of Jacob Zuma as president of this country.
The dissent has been simmering for some time, but boiled over after last Thursday’s cabinet reshuffle and the subsequent credit rating downgrade.
Today we will see how effective the ANC national working committee’s attempt this week to close ranks and dissuade members from participating in the various events has been.
More ominous though has been the intolerance of some of the factions within the ANC, who stand foursquare behind the president. It is easy to dismiss the utterances of the ANC Youth League or provincial elements of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association as sabre rattling, or ignore ANC NEC member and Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s injunction to members to protect the party HQ.
The truth is that no one needs to do any protecting of any building or institution - there are more than enough police, municipal and SAPS, to do just that.
It was provocative of the DA to initially say it would march to Luthuli House - and counter-productive, given the current non-sectarian appeal.
Equally, in a democracy, there should be no no-go areas anywhere. It is to the DA’s credit that they conceded and amended their original plan to ensure that people could protest - and not provoke a riot.
The constitution allows for a range of hard-won freedoms, including expression, belief and association. We might not like what others believe, but we must let them express them. In turn, those who protest may not harm lives or property.
It’s a very simple trade-off.
The police have to act resolutely and impartially today against anyone anywhere either breaking the law or taking the law into their own hands. The alternative is anarchy.