Johannesburg - A “Soweto shutdown” protest organiser has promised their march to the mayor’s office in Braamfontein today will be peaceful.
This comes after protest action on June 20 left parts of Soweto inaccessible as roads were barricaded with rocks and burning tyres.
Organiser and “Soweto Parliament” leader Nhlanhla Dlamini took to his Instagram account to issue a call to action to the people of Soweto.
He called on school children to emulate their June 16, 1976, counterparts by donning their school uniforms and joining the march.
He said: “It is important that everyone stand up from every community and come to state their grievances here, whether they be electricity-related or whatever. The mayor will receive our grievances and the expectation we will return to Soweto with the Eskom technicians in tow to fix the issues of the communities who will be represented here.”
The service delivery protests in Soweto and other communities, however valid they may be, have far-reaching consequences.
Members of the public often stay away from work whenever there is protest action. They fear for their safety, and despite assurances of peaceful protests, they prefer not to chance it.
Melissa Mtshali, a teacher from Soweto who works in Turffontein, didn't go to work today as a result of the road she uses to catch a taxi being blockaded.
She said: ”It was blocked from yesterday, coming back from work yesterday was a nightmare. We had to walk long distances to get home. I leave for work at half-past five so walking to another area trying to find transport is not an option and it isn't safe.“
Commuters and motorists are not the only ones affected by these blockades, but the effect on entrepreneurs is also detrimental.
Taxi operators are also feeling the pinch as taxi services were interrupted by the protests, resulting in a loss of earnings.
National Taxi Association spokesperson Theo Malele lamented the effects of the protest action on taxi operators and their businesses.
He said: “We empathise with the rights of those who are embarking on these activities because we believe it is within their rights, but they should also respect the rights of those who do not participate.”
He also commented on the effect it has on the operators’ ability to make a living as they are already under pressure due to the rising cost of fuel.
“Currently, we are finding it difficult to reach our daily and monthly targets in relation to paying our instalments, and further disruptions will put more pressure on us.
“I spoke about members of the taxi industry losing their vehicles through repossessions because of the fuel increases. Now with all these disruptions and fewer people going to work, it will further squeeze our margins. It is just terrible. It is rather unbearable as a business,” he said.
The loss of productivity affects entrepreneurs adversely as it limits their ability to trade, whether it be as a result of no foot traffic or employees not arriving to perform their daily duties.
Sifiso Nyembe, who owns Bakgoni Hair Salon in Mondeor, south of Johannesburg, spoke about the potential income he lost yesterday and may lose again today.
“My business has been affected as I have five employees who live in Soweto, and they were unable to come in yesterday because of transport issues.
“Furthermore, yesterday was the 20th, and people who work in the banking sector got paid, and I would normally see an influx of customers around this time of the month. Most of them called to cancel their appointments,” he said.
The protests also have an effect on Nyembe’s bottom line.
“I think today will be worse because the number of protesters will be much higher. Not working for these two days will affect my ability to meet my commitments come month-end. It also doesn’t help that there is load shedding scheduled for this week”.