Pretoria - Chaos erupted at the lawns area of the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday afternoon when protesters wrestled with police officers barring them from moving in further into the seat of the South African government.
Water bottles flew from the crowd, towards the police officers who used pepper spray leaving many coughing uncontrollably and washing their faces.
The #TotalShutdown protesters refused to hand their memorandum of demands to Presidency officials and Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor who came to receive the memorandum but she was also turned away.
"We want Cyril, we want Cyril," the crowd chanted as Pandor walked away, escorted by numerous police officers.
The protesters vowed that they would not leave unless President Cyril Ramaphosa came to receive their memorandum.
Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko tweeted that the president was not in town today. "He was never scheduled to receive the memo. However, he’s just received the news that the women who marched are still at the Union Buildings. He is making his way there now."
#TotalShutDown President @CyrilRamaphosa was not in town today. He was never scheduled to receive the memo. However he’s just received the news that the women who marched are still at the UB. He is making his way there now.— Khusela Diko🇿🇦 (@KhuselaS) August 1, 2018
Thousands had marched across the Pretoria CBD as part of the countrywide #TotalShutdown, raising the alarm on violence against women, children and gender non-conforming people.
“We are tired of the rise of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa. We are tired of the women’s struggles being trivialised and just hearing that enough is enough statement. We want action, and we have actions,” said one of the protest organisers Gaopalelwe Phalaetsile.
“We want to give those [action plans] to government and lawmakers, and say here are our 24 demands for the 24 years of democracy you haven’t liberated us as women and gender non-conforming people. We are saying, we have the action plans. We can see that you [government] are struggling. We want to help you, and that is why we are here today.”
She said there was no need for “women’s celebrations” unless the nation was being honest about the brutality that women and gender non-conforming people suffer in South Africa.
August marks Women’s Month in South Africa and various festivities are held annually to pay tribute to the role of women in the struggle against apartheid, and in the current day society.
The #TotalShutdown marches were also being held in neighbouring countries, including Lesotho and Namibia, where women and non-gender conforming people also took a stand against gender-based violence.
African News Agency/ANA