Kimberley businesses fear that there will be chaos and looting during the EFF national shutdown that is scheduled to take place on Monday.
KIMBERLEY businesses fear that there will be chaos and looting during the EFF national shutdown that is scheduled to take place on Monday, March 20.
The EFF has been vague about its intentions regarding protest action although it was indicated that groups of people will gather in residential areas, at major roads and intersections and request all businesses to close, as they call for President Cyril Ramaphosa to step down and an end to load shedding.
Despite assurances from the EFF that their protest actions will be peaceful, there are concerns that they will not be able to control sporadic incidents of vandalism and violence.
There is also uneasiness that the national Human Rights Day commemoration that is set to take place in De Aar on Tuesday may be disrupted.
The Forum 4 Service Delivery will join the shutdown in objection to the lack of service delivery, load shedding, corruption and poverty.
The provincial convener of the forum, Moeketsi Ntema, stated that the entire Phokwane community was frustrated.
“The ANC provincial chairperson and the premier have failed Phokwane. The issues raised by the EFF affect all of us. All young people and elders who feel pain will join us, we expect 10 000 residents to take part,” said Ntema.
Many city businesses have yet to decide if they will be trading on Monday.
Some stores will be operating with skeleton staff or will close their doors if danger is imminent.
Business owners indicated that they did not want to be held responsible in the event that employees were injured or there was a fatality.
“While we will lose income for that day, it is not worth having property damaged and goods stolen.”
Workers pointed out that they will not have access to transport if taxi operators join the shutdown.
Schooling should not be affected as St Patrick’s College CBC will close today for the end of the first term and Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe said that public schools will be closed on Monday as it is a school holiday.
The Office of the Premier had not responded to media enquiries by the time of publication as to whether government offices would be closed.
Some civil servants indicated that they were expected to work on Monday.
EFF provincial spokesperson Obakeng Lechuti stated that they would embark on a peaceful protest and there will be no intimidation or looting.
“We will ask people nicely to close their doors, we do not support any acts of criminality. If shops are closed, then there is no reason for people to be on the streets. People should stay at home. We will not interfere with any essential workers such as nurses, doctors and security workers,” said Lechuti.
He added that they had received widespread support from buses, taxi associations, businesses and members of the public.
“The community has agreed that load shedding affects everyone. Jobs are being lost and the price of food is becoming unaffordable. Preparations are in full swing and we have the support of the community in all five districts of the Province. Churches are encouraged to join the shutdown as you cannot attend a service only to find there are no lights or sound. We have also met with the Northern Cape police commissioner.”
Lechuti expressed a lack of confidence in President Ramaphosa.
“He needs to witness the power of the people because he is not listening to their cries. He knew of the looting and corruption that is taking place at Eskom that is the reason for the rolling blackouts. As the president of the country, he has the power to stop the billions that are being siphoned from the power utility and yet he did nothing.”
During a meeting that was convened at Kimberley police station on Wednesday, business owners conveyed a lack of confidence in the ability of the police to maintain law and order.
Businesses believed that there was not enough manpower to prevent acts of violence or damage to property.
A local guest house owner said she waited three days for the police to arrive at her business during the Nehawu strike action last week, after suspects jumped over her fence and broke her windows.
“What am I supposed to tell my international guests? How do I protect my property as I cannot afford extra security?” she asked.
Another businessman pointed out that they have a right to operate and generate revenue and expected the police to provide them with the necessary security.
“How long will it take for the police to respond to a call-out?” many asked.
Business owners felt that scant information was forthcoming from the meeting and that the police were ill-prepared to deal with the shutdown.
“Proactive measures need to be taken to prevent any chaos from erupting. We don’t even know if the threats are low, medium or high risk or which hot spots should be avoided.”
A member of the public pointed out that the EFF should not be allowed to “burn the little that we have”.
“The EFF should be stopped in their tracks before they wreak havoc on the city.”
The Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci) requested that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) be brought in to assist, but indicated that the police had informed them that the military could only be deployed in the event of a national disaster.
Nocci CEO Sharon Steyn advised businesses to use their discretion if they wished to operate.
“Nocci cannot tell any member of the public or businesses to close or stay at home. Be vigilant and make the right decisions for your own safety and that of your staff.”
She noted that security companies would be working with the SAPS.
“All additional employees of the SAPS have all been told that they will need to work on Monday.”
The police stated that they have identified hot-spot areas and checkpoints that will be monitored from the early hours of Monday morning.
Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Sergio Kock stated that the police in the Northern Cape were on high alert.
“We have contingency plans in place to police any eventuality that may occur during the EFF-planned shutdown. All keypoint and hot-spot areas will be policed and monitored,” said Kock.
He added that police officials were part of essential services and were not permitted to participate in any protest action.
“Off-duty SAPS members may participate as it is not impacting on service delivery. Public Service Act members are not regarded as being essential, however, a minimum service level agreement as provided for in the Labour Relations Act has not been concluded between the employee and organised labour.”
Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thoko Riet said refuse removal would continue as normal on Monday.
“We will also determine if our workers are able to get to work, especially those that are using public transport to get to work. We will, however, monitor the situation and if there are areas that will be affected we will communicate that on our various social media platforms to inform of any challenges encountered in terms of refuse removal,” said Riet.
She stated that the municipal offices would be open as normal.