The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party in South Africa has called for a “national shutdown” in an effort to force President Cyril Ramaphosa to step down from his post.
Members of the party have decided to not go to work as a way to protest the current administration’s daily power cuts, unemployment, and corruption.
Police were deployed on Monday as the nation braced for a potentially violent protest. Authorities have reportedly stationed security around various government buildings and other key locations amid a coordinated protest by South Africa’s third-largest party, according to the Financial Times.
There is fear that the EFF could ignite some of the most damaging, post-apartheid violence that South Africa has seen since 2021.
Though the South African government did say that business would proceed as usual on Monday, the EFF’s willingness to engage in violence has the ruling African National Congress fearful that it could lead to more violence and upheaval.
“As much as the right to protest is guaranteed and protected under our constitution, equally that right is not absolute, and that right is not a ticket to any form of anarchy or violence,” Ramaphosa’s spokesperson said.
However, Julius Malema, the EFF’s charismatic leader, reportedly said that “no one can stop a revolution,” calling on supporters to take to the streets and demand Ramaphosa’s removal.
The EFF has also noted that protesters should be peaceful, but that they should also “defend themselves from anyone who provokes them with violence,” according to the report.
Tebello Mosikili, South Africa’s deputy national police commissioner, made a statement last week, saying that “there will be no national shutdown…we learnt our lesson in 2021.”
“Everything from businesses to services will be fully functional… We’re not going to allow lawlessness and acts of criminality.”If the protest turns violent, it could spell disaster for the African country. In 2021, following the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma, the former president, violent protests became so unruly that the South African government deployed a large military operation to stop the protests. There were reportedly 350 people killed amid the looting and organized destruction during that time.