DA vows to reject and prevent EFF violence ahead of ‘national shutdown’

‘We will not sit back and allow the EFF to threaten businesses, livelihoods and lives,’ says DA leader John Steenhuisen

DA leader John Steenhuisen has expressed concern at the ‘intimidatory tactics’ employed by members of the EFF who are allegedly threatening consequences for any business that trades and any adult or child who goes to work or school on March 20. File photo.
Image: Ziyaad Douglas

The DA has launched legal action and has vowed to mobilise society against the “rampant intimidation and threats of violence” allegedly peddled by the EFF across the country ahead of its national shutdown scheduled to take place on March 20.

Party federal leader John Steenhuisen expressed concern at the “intimidatory tactics” employed by members of the EFF, who are allegedly threatening consequences for any business that dares to open and trade and any adult or child who dares to go to work or school on that day.

“We will not sit back and allow the EFF to threaten businesses, livelihoods and lives. There is mounting evidence on social media and in public statements by EFF leaders, members and supporters that they are prepared to break the law in pursuit of their own political agenda,” he said.

Steenhuisen slammed the protest action as not just illegal, but as a “nonsensical demand”.

“It makes no sense to instigate a nationwide shutdown to protest load-shedding. Shutting the economy down for a day will do nothing to solve this problem that has been decades in the making. On the contrary, it will only push South Africa deeper into chaos and poverty.”

He said the DA recognised the right to undertake peaceful protest as a legitimate constitutional right and will defend it regardless of which formation is protesting. However, he said it is unacceptable that the EFF would trample on the rights of others to make its demands heard.

“This right is not unlimited and it can never constitute justification for criminal behaviour or behaviour that violates or threatens the rights of others.

“Just as people have the right to protest, they also have the right to not protest, the right to not associate with the protesting organisation and the right to go to school or to work or to operate a business, and to go about their lives unhindered and unobstructed.”

The DA would do whatever it could to protect others’ rights within the law to disassociate from the EFF and its cause, and their rights to go to work and operate businesses, he said.

The red berets’ threats, which the DA takes seriously, include:

  • A picture on social media of the Mpumalanga leader in red EFF-branded clothing posing with a semi-automatic rifle, and a caption: “By all means necessary or possible we are ready @EFFSouthAfrica.”
  • A video of EFF members announcing the shutdown via a loudspeaker from the back of a bakkie, where the speaker is heard saying: “We are saying to you close down all your businesses to avoid the looting. Close down all your shops to avoid the looting. Close down all your factories to avoid the lootings. Close down everything — nothing will be operating on that day, we are avoiding the looting. So we are saying to you, come and join the march, my brother. Come and join the march, my sister.”
  • Giving the minister of education seven days to close schools, saying that any child wearing a uniform will be doing so at their own risk.
  • Issuing a letter to OR Tambo International Airport authorities warning them not to allow any flights or business activity on the day.
  • That the leader of the EFF has stated that he and his organisation will not apply for any approval from municipal authorities, the regulating authorities assigned to enforce legislation regarding public demonstrations, gatherings and protest action.

Steenhuisen said the threats of violence and intimidation showed that leader Julius Malema and his party had no respect for the law and no intention to abide by the regulations governing protest action.

To protect the rule of law, the DA vowed to write to the minister of defence, Thandi Modise, to ensure soldiers are on standby for deployment and that the necessary resources are available to make sure there is no violence and looting.

“This is all the more objectionable at a time when people are suffering from multiple assaults to their lives and livelihoods due to the disastrous lockdowns, ongoing high-stage load-shedding and runaway crime.”

Steenhuisen added that the DA would be approaching the court to ensure that the EFF complies with the conditions of permits issued by relevant municipalities giving permission for peaceful protest.

“Second, we are seeking a court interdict to ensure that the EFF leadership retracts all intimidation letters issued, such as the letter to OR Tambo Airport warning the authority not to allow flights or business activity on the day.

“Third, our lawyers have drafted a template affidavit that can be used by any business owner who has been intimidated by any EFF representatives to report such behaviour and press a formal charge of intimidation against the leadership of the EFF and its local representatives who act on behalf of the EFF’s national leadership; and to request that the SAPS prevent, combat and investigate any violation of the legislation that regulates demonstrations, gatherings and events in South Africa.

“We call on all South Africans to stand with us against EFF thuggery.”

Steenhuisen said the DA has written to police minister Bheki Cele to highlight the imminent threat posed to the economy, public and private infrastructure, as well as to the safety of citizens, by the EFF’s planned nationwide shutdown, calling on him to issue a statement against the shutdown and to assure South Africans that the SAPS and the security cluster is on standby to respond to violence.

“We have written to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking him to issue a pre-emptive warning that no violence, vandalism or intimidation will be tolerated, and that any such behaviour will meet the full force of the law.”

He said that the party has resolved to press charges against the EFF and hold it liable for any damage done to person, property, lives and livelihoods perpetrated during their so-called shutdown.

“The rule of law encompasses the notions of equality before the law and no-one can take the law into their own hands. In threatening violence and vandalism, the EFF is doing just this — taking the law into their own hands,” he said, adding that the DA is taking steps to pre-empt this pending violence and prevent it from taking place or to lessen the harm.

Where the DA governs it will be business as usual, Steenhuisen added.

“Our law enforcement and traffic services personnel will work closely with SAPS to maintain law and order and to hold any acts of vandalism and violence to account. Those responsible for vandalism or violence will be arrested.”