Durban – Police are on high alert after threats of a national shutdown were amplified on social media this week, causing panic among South Africans.
Social media and community conversations this week have shifted towards concerns that a national shutdown by unions and other civil organisations may be on the cards over the exorbitant fuel prices and a further possible increase.
The shutdown has not been confirmed, however, and organisations such as Santaco say they will not be taking part in any strike and it will be business as usual seeing that its members are already feeling the financial pinch.
However, concerns have been raised that the national shutdown initially called in the wake of the rising fuel prices may be hijacked by other groups to protest and possibly loot around the scandal plaguing President Cyril Ramaphosa and the theft of money at his game farm.
The SA Police’ National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) said it was aware of the unverified messages circulating social media and warned people against sharing them.
Natjoints said it had met on Wednesday to discuss the validity of the protest and would monitor the situation.
“With this said, law enforcement officers have been deployed and are on high alert to prevent and combat any forms of criminality,” it said.
The respective provincial operational and intelligence structures had been directed to ensure multidisciplinary deployments and the necessary contingency plans were in place, it added.
Santaco’s KZN office manager, Sifiso Shangase, spoke to IOL on Thursday and said the organisation’s stance on the matter had been resolved and would not change.
Shangase said Santaco would protect its assets and passengers if a national shutdown did take place on Friday and it became necessary to do so. More than 35 000 licensed taxis operate in KZN daily.
“We are going to refrain from any protest tomorrow. It is going to be business as usual on our side. Our minibus taxis are going to be on the road.
“In the interest of protecting our own assets, we have put protection measures in place. We have vehicles on the road and we have passengers as well that we need to protect,” Shangase said.
In eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal’s largest metro, community organisations said they would prefer not to see a shutdown but had prepared for the worst should any protests ensue.
Zain Soosiwala, of Durban-based NPO Ethekwini Secure, said its members had a designated communication channel to mobilise themselves should any riots occur on Friday.
“We do suggest people stay vigilant tomorrow and also don’t panic buy. We have also been speaking with law enforcement and they are also aware of what's going on.
“If anything does happen on multiple fronts, then we will call on society over our Zello network. This was used during the last civil unrest and we managed to form a communication network to help us through that time.
‘We suggest people stay logged on to the Zello network and monitor the channel in case something happens,” Soosiwala said.
The Umbilo community policing forum said it had been working with police to verify whether a shutdown was going to take place and urged residents to refrain from sharing unverified information.
“No party or organisation has been able to confirm anything at this stage.
“We urge all residents and business owners to exercise calm and restraint and not to share any unverified information on any social media platforms as this creates unnecessary panic and anxiety,” Umbilo CPF chairperson Calvin Thomas said.