Business as usual amid EFF protests

Reports from some key cities and industries in South Africa show that the planned “national shutdown” for today (20 March) wasn’t quite as impactful as its organisers hoped.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber said that while some factories and industries were impacted due to a spike in absenteeism, it was largely business as usual for the region.

The City of Cape Town issued a similar statement, noting several instances where protesters tried to cause damage and threatened to disrupt businesses, but were ultimately dispersed.

“In general, most manufacturers who had planned normal operations were able to do so at the required production levels, while those in the services and retail sectors were able to operate without major disruptions,” said Denise van Huyssteen, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber.

“There were some manufacturers that were impacted by higher than normal absenteeism levels, which in certain instances resulted in adjusted production or rescheduling of shifts. Certain manufacturers in turn opted to produce over the weekend and then to close on Monday and Tuesday (the public holiday),” she said.

A few manufacturers were impacted by gas shortages due to the Coega IDZ sub-station explosion incident, which resulted in a number of businesses in the IDZ not having power for more than a week.

The chamber said that the protest action is not the answer to ills raised by the organisers, echoing other sentiments from businesses that they were in fact making matters worse for the country.

“Stayaways, protest actions and threats to business are not a solution to the country’s electricity and load shedding crisis and are deterring investors from risking capital investment into rebuilding our economy and retaining much-needed jobs.

“The ongoing sustainability of businesses has been severely impacted by load shedding, and now more than ever before, we need all the role players to work together to accelerate the implementation of solutions which will provide reliable power which can meet the country’s existing and long-term energy requirements,” it said.

In the City of Cape Town, authorities reported and responded to “a few sporadic incidents” of protest.

This included stone throwing, attempts to block roads with burning barricades and attempted arson.

“But thanks to the coordinated and swift response of enforcement agencies, we’ve managed to contain the situation. Our staff remain on high alert, and are continuing their proactive patrols and checkpoints to ensure law and order prevails,” the city said.

“The city’s enforcement agencies will also keep a close eye on the planned march to parliament today,” it said.

Despite the relative calm in Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay, other city centres were not as quiet.

Shops and businesses in Durban were effectively closed for the day amid a gathering of thousands of EFF supporters. Pretoria businesses faced similar closure as protestor numbers grew. Protestors have also been growing in number in Joburg.

The organiser of the protest action, the EFF, has gathered its main show of force in Pretoria, preparing to march on the union buildings. EFF leader Julius Malema said that there is no memorandum to be handed over.

The party has been calling for the resignation of president Cyril Ramaphosa and an end to load shedding. It has also attempted to rally support under the banner of many other ills facing South Africa, including high unemployment, gender-based violence, and the lack of free tertiary education.

The protests are ongoing.

Read: CEO slams ‘backwards’ protests – as Ramaphosa deploys the army

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