Just how effective was the national shutdown? Was it a vote-buying stunt on the part of the EFF ahead of the 2024 national elections? Was the protest action successful and will the government give more heed to issues of load shedding, unemployment and gender-based violence going forward?
The Might of the National Shutdown 2023: Will the government do the “Right thing?”
History has funny handwriting. It continuously writes itself as we live, with the sole purpose of amusing and amazing our descendants. Years from now, the 20th of March 2023 will be remembered as the day South Africa stood still. The day of the National Shutdown, which was led by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who eagerly sought to paint every town in the country red.
The leaders of the political party have called for the immediate resignation of South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, amidst the electricity crisis, economic turmoil and various other issues that the country is currently facing. The EFF encouraged all South Africans to go into protest and shut down the country on Monday, 20 March 2023. But just how effective was the national shutdown? Was it a vote-buying stunt on the part of the EFF ahead of the 2024 national elections? Was the protest action successful and will the government give more heed to issues of load shedding, unemployment and gender-based violence going forward?
EFF leader Julius Malema pledged South Africans to stay at home and advised business owners to close shop on the day to avoid their businesses being looted. The proposed shutdown created a division of views, with some people being in support of it and some being in overt disapproval. 2015 Activator Pagel Nyilongo views the shutdown as a double-edged sword and says that it has the potential to snowball into a revolution. He states that although it halted economic activity, the shutdown was somewhat effective in rattling the government’s cage, as there was exceptionally reduced load shedding around the period of the shutdown. This begs the question, does the country have to resort to protest action for the government to listen and do the right thing?
All the king’s men
The news of the shutdown came with wide anticipation of mayhem. The ruling government deployed more than three thousand members of the South African National Defense Force to the streets, to ensure that the country-wide protests remain peaceful. There was also increased police visibility on the ground and more sophisticated technology was employed to ensure law enforcement. This is a move that the EFF has since deplored and rejected, viewing it as suppression of the citizens’ right to engage in peaceful protest. 2016 Activator Matshepo Moatshe says that national crime statistics would change for the better if the same efforts were directed towards combatting gender-based violence and similar crimes.
Was it enough?
There have been multiple reported clashes in various parts of the country between protestors and the police, but it was far from the chaos that was initially anticipated. Overall, the national shutdown was a relatively peaceful one, even though the EFF has been largely criticized for using it to finagle support ahead of the 2024 national elections.
What remains to be seen is whether the government will pay more attention to the needs of its citizens, going forward. Will we see more being done to remedy the country’s energy crisis? Will there be more efforts towards combatting unemployment and gender-based violence? Will there be less corruption and will the country’s economy improve to a more favourable state? One thing is for sure, the message was delivered and the message is loud and clear: We demand a better South Africa!
About the Author:
Paul Mabote Is an activator, a creative writer and a storyteller.