Government issues stern warning on attempts to cause disruption ahead of national shutdown

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Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, has warned that attempts to cause disruption and disturbances in the country will be met with the full might of the law, after the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) announced a national shutdown on Monday 20 March.

Ntshavheni described the planned shutdown as irresponsible and reckless, saying the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster stands ready to deal with lawlessness.

The Minister was speaking during a post Cabinet media briefing on Thursday in Pretoria.

“The alleged demands about load shedding, the high cost of living and high unemployment rate were addressed by the President during the State of the Nation Address.

“Therefore, the only demand which is the basis for this protest action is the plan to remove President Ramaphosa from office through unconstitutional means. We want to inform all, that regime change through unconstitutional means will not be tolerated, and it will not happen in South Africa.

“Attempts to cause disruption and disturbances in the country will be met with the full might of the law,” the Minister said.

She urged those with ambitions to govern the country to wait for the 2024 General Elections.

“We must also clarify that no amount of political adventurism should stray South Africans. Cabinet has noted the hallucination of groupings claiming that they have given Cabinet seven days to shut down or close schools.

“The Government Gazette of March 2022 has already declared the 20th of March as a special school holiday for both public schools and private schools, so we should not claim easy victories. It won’t happen,” Ntshavheni said.

The Minister highlighted that schools will be closed and this is a trend like in any other country where a school holiday coincides with a normal holiday, and members of the public, who are in employment, and parents normally take long weekends.

“The majority of South Africans would have taken Monday the 20th as special leave or leave day so they can enjoy their long weekend.

“So people should not be fooled. If people are not at work, it is not because of the shutdown or calls for people not to go to work. If people are not at work, it is because people have long planned that they are going on holiday.

“There are not going to be easy victories that are claimed at the expense of this country,” Ntshavheni said.

Protection of property

Government has further assured all South Africans that Monday will be a normal business day and everyone and their property will be protected during the planned national shutdown.

The JCPS said this while briefing media on measures the cluster had put in place to minimise the impact of the national shutdown.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said government lauds residents and businesses who refuse to be intimidated or bullied by those planning the shutdown.

Cele said the JCPS has noted the planned protest action called by some groupings and the mobilisation undertaken on various communication platforms for members of the public to join the protest action.

“We want to assure everyone in the country that the 20th of March will be a normal business day. We want to reiterate to our international community that contrary to the pronouncements by those advocating for any disruption, all ports of entry – land, sea and air – will be operational.

“Measures have been put in place to ensure that everyone who wants to go to work, travel for leisure and conduct business on this day does so in a safe and secure environment,” Cele said.

“Anyone who intimidates, stops anyone from going to work, barricades the roads and highways and uses any form of violence to try and stop our people from going on with their lives will face the full might of the law.”

The JCPS cluster also cautioned against the spreading of messages of fear, intimidation or inflammatory statements that could incite violence.

“This is a criminal offence. We are aware of many social media accounts claiming that hundreds and thousands of followers are being mobilised to support the protest.

“The majority of communities and various sectors of society including SANTACO [SA National Taxi Council], the National Taxi Association, the Road Freight Association and organised structures within communities, have rejected this call,” the Cluster said.

Cele said that they are aware that social media platforms are being used to give credence to the protest. He appealed to the public not to believe everything they read on social media.

“Government will be providing people with information through credible government channels,” the Minister said.

Cele said they will be closely monitoring the situation throughout the country, and will act swiftly and decisively against any threats or disruptions.

“There will be high police visibility. Our law enforcement agencies, through the NATJOINTS [National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure], will ensure multidisciplinary deployments and the necessary contingency plans are already in place,” he said.

The cluster commended many associations in the sports, the transport sectors, the taxi industry, the trucking industry and others which have indicated they do not support any call for a shutdown for any protest action that will result in the disruption of their business on Monday.

The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, assured that the South African National Defence Force is on standby.

“The Security Cluster is fully prepared and will deal with any disruption caused by this protest action. Those who will be participating in any form of protest action around the country must ensure that they do so in a peaceful manner. No form of violence and criminality will be tolerated,” Cele said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday said that although government respects the right to protest and the expression of dissatisfaction, lawlessness will not be tolerated in any protest.

“South Africa is governed by the rule of law. We are a constitutional democracy. Regime change can only come about through the vote. It cannot come about through anarchy, unleashing disorder in the country.

“I want to say very clearly: disorder and anarchy will not be allowed in South Africa. We will not allow those who want to spread anarchy to do what they like here in South Africa,” he said.

“The right to protest is enshrined in our Constitution. It’s deeply embedded in our Constitution and it is a right that we as South Africans fought for and won so that South Africans can protest against what may be issues that they don’t agree with.

“But that right is not absolute and nobody can stand up and say I can do whatever I want. That right is not absolute. It is a limited right. It’s not underpinned by violence. It’s not a right that allows anyone to embarking on anarchy or disorder. It is a right that says, ‘you must respect the rights of others’.

“Security forces of our country are going to defend our people. They are going to make sure that intimidation, anarchy and disorder does not prevail. Those who want to protest, by all means, protest peacefully but if you are going to restrict the rights of other people, if you are going to coerce them, if you are going to intimidate them and unleash violence, our security forces are going to defend the people of South Africa.

“We will not allow anarchy and disorder to prevail in this country and against the people of South Africa. That will not be allowed. Security forces, stand ready to defend the people of South Africa,” Ramaphosa said.