There will be no national shutdown, says police general as law enforcement expected in full force

File image.

File image.

Published Mar 18, 2023


Johannesburg - As Joburg enters a state of readiness in preparation of the national shutdown on Monday, an army of police, troops and thousands of citizens have been tasked with protecting the city if violence erupts.

On Friday afternoon, Lieutenant-General Tebello Mosikili, the chairperson of the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) declared that it was all systems go and that they were prepared for what the EFF has called a national shutdown on Monday.

Mosikili told journalists during the press briefing: “This is our update to the country at large, that there will be no national shutdown.

“We know of a planned protest. To say there will be a national shutdown is misleading. Everything from business to services will be fully functional and operational and accessible. We are not going to allow lawlessness and acts of criminality – those who are found to be on the wrong side of the law will be dealt with accordingly.”

Over the weekend various police units are to be deployed across Gauteng.

Security will also be heightened at ports of entry, such as airports. Mosikili cautioned that travellers might need to allow for extra time while passing through these ports.

“The Natjoints will not allow any barricading of national, provincial and municipal roads. Public violence, the burning of tyres and placing of rocks and debris to blockade roads, as well as looting, will not be allowed. The destruction of property whether it be private or public property, as well as business and economic sites, is against the law,” Mosikili said.

Leading up to the Monday event, the EFF has allegedly called for the use of violence and looting against businesses and citizens who do not heed the call to stay away. The national shutdown had been planned as a protest against load shedding and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The Hawks have been tasked, said Mosikili, to investigate incidents of intimidation and incitement of violence on social media.

But besides the police and army who will be ready in support, the private security sector and Community Policing Forum (CPF) members are to act as eyes and ears on the ground.

Across Gauteng CPFs were this week preparing for Monday.

“We have been tasked to be more vigilant, through patrolling. We will also be working with various law enforcement and security companies,” said Edenvale CPF spokesperson Fiona Pickett. She added that her CPF would be liaising with other neighbouring CPFs.

“We will be sharing information to ensure everyone is safe.”

Pickett said that they had received a directive from the Edenvale police station commander that their CPF had to be available from yesterday until Wednesday.

The chairperson of the Florida CPF, Farhaad Sardiwalla, said while they were not expecting any problems, they were ready.

“We have mobilised all our patrollers. We have got over 250 patrollers in our area. They are now all on standby.”

To the south of Johannesburg, Alberton CPF chairperson Pieter Schrieber said they were working with the SAPS, and security companies.

“As of yet there have been no credible threats other than the usual demands to stay at home and not open for business. However, the Alberton CPF, SAPS and security companies will be proactively monitoring all areas from Friday evening until everything has calmed down.”

Meanwhile, Sandton and Johannesburg CPF chairperson Roshan Byjnal said they had been clearing tyres found in the area that might have been placed there to be used as lit barricades on Monday.

Byjnal added that the challenging part had been keeping residents calm.

“We are also trying to manage information and misinformation. There is just so much information floating around,” he said

The CPF urged residents to avoid impacted areas should they need to travel, not to share any information that may incite violence or panic, not to engage any protesters and to only follow reliable sources.

But for many, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the spectre of the July riots of 2021 with its widespread looting and violence is causing fear and panic. Many are making sure it won't happen again.

In Durban North, volunteers and police in a high-tech operations community centre will keep a hawk’s eye on security cameras placed in strategic positions and a professionally-piloted drone will provide an “eye in sky”. Neighbourhood watches will be patrolling on the ground. The Greater Together Foundation, a philanthropic fundraising service formed after the July 2021 riots to assist the local security sector, has been instrumental in setting it up.

KZN EFF chair Mongezi Twala has warned that they “won’t fold our arms if the state and private sector provoke us”.

Phoenix, which experienced violence in the July 2021 insurrection, will have the status of a hot spot on Monday, said provincial police commissioner police Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi said yesterday.

At a media briefing yesterday, Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC and chair of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, Sipho Hlomuka, said additional deployments would augment the existing 18 000 SAPS members in the province.

Anxiety began to run high in Phoenix after EFF leader Julius Malema said in an interview this week that protesters would respond if residents provoked them.

Sham Maharaj of the Phoenix Ubuntu Forum, formed after July 2021, said a service had been set up for residents to verify information in an effort to filter out inaccuracies on social media.

He also said entrances and exits would be monitored “with a number of ground rules” for those manning them in the hope of calming things down.

He cautioned against fake news and “giving Malema the publicity he wants”.

Mkhwanazi said that if the EFF’s threatening talk turned into action, they would be charged.

“We are building up a docket already. Fortunately for us, they said it in public already, so it's on record,” he said.

He added that announcements that “people will not be able to move, institutions will close, amount to anarchy. We feel that this is an attempt to overthrow the government to some degree.

“No permission for the protests has yet been received.”

As far as the EFF’s Twala is concerned, claims that Malema was calling for violence were distortions and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government’s failure to give people the right to access to water and a reliable energy supply justified its strategy.

“Enough is enough. The government is taking us for a ride. The enemy cannot determine our agenda and approach,” he said.

The Saturday Star