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National shutdown organisers remain unknown as public urged to stay calm

A protester calls for calm as he walks towards a line of police officers. Picture: Antoine de Ras

A protester calls for calm as he walks towards a line of police officers. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Published Jun 9, 2022

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A protester calls for calm as he walks towards a line of police officers. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Johannesburg - On the eve of the national shutdown, with South Africans frantically trying to plan for life on Friday, the organisers still remain unknown.

Numerous organisations have come forward to distance themselves from the shutdown messages that have been doing rounds on social media.

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Social media posts and chat groups have been widely sharing warnings and documentation from security group Fidelity, detailing contingency plans for a possible national shutdown across the country on Friday.

The messages claimed that the action would be led by several groups, including union federation Cosatu, the National Taxi Alliance (NTA), the South African Taxi Council (Santaco), the EFF and Operation Dudula.

However, the groups have distanced themselves from the statement. Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pumla said that while people have a right to organise a national shutdown to raise their dissatisfaction, the union would not participate.

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"We don't have a position in this," said Pamla.

The NTA's spokesperson, Theo Malele, said they had heard about plans for a national shutdown in the media, saying they wanted to know who was behind this.

Santaco spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa also distanced the organisation from the possible national shutdown, saying they have never engaged with any organisation in the effort to mobilise for a national shutdown as a result of the petrol crises.

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EFF spokesperson Sinawo Tambo could not be reached for comment. Even Operation Dudula leader Nhlanhla Lux distanced himself from the planned shutdown in a video circulated on social media.

Fidelity has warned that there could be a repeat of the July 2021 riots, looting and destruction that cost the economy an estimated R50 billion.

Firemen hose down the R102 to remove rubble from burnt tyres, street signs and litter left behind by protesting residents. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

The security group said the following risks could possibly be faced:

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- Slow motorcades

- Barricading of roads

- Marches

- Pubic transport disruption

- Staff absenteeism or late arrivals

- Damage to property

The July 2021 unrest occurred during a challenging economic period coupled with a tense political climate, which saw former president Jacob Zuma's imprisonment.

Protester brandish rocks. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The government's security cluster said it had already started to put measures in place to ensure the safety and security of South Africans, and was aware of unsigned messages and posters circulating on various social media platforms calling for a national shutdown.

"Those behind these messages are warned and reminded that prohibiting people's freedom of movement is a criminal offence. Members of the public are therefore cautioned against spreading such messages that seek to mobilise communities to respond to the shutdown," said police spokesperson Athlanda Mathe.

She said any action that contravened the law would be dealt with accordingly, within the ambit of the law.

"To this end, the NATJOINTS (National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure) calls for the co-operation of the public,“ Mathe said.

“The NATJOINTS met on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, when they were briefed by the Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee( ICC) on the validity of the call for a National Shutdown. The Intelligence community is closely monitoring the situation and the associated risks."

"With this said, law enforcement officers have been deployed and are on high alert to prevent and combat any forms of criminality," she said.

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