DA to take a stand against EFF intimidation and threats of violence – John Steenhuisen

Party launching legal action against the "national shutdown" planned for Monday

DA to take a stand against EFF intimidation and threats of violence

14 March 2023

The DA is today launching legal action and mobilizing society against the rampant intimidation and threats of violence being peddled by the EFF across the country ahead of the so-called “National Shutdown” planned for Monday, 20 March.

We are deeply concerned by the intimidatory tactics being employed by members of the EFF, who are threatening “consequences” for any business that dares to open and trade on the day, and for any adult or child who dares to go to work or school on that day.

Warning signs

The DA has been inundated by calls from concerned South Africans, who have expressed their concerns and their fears.

The DA takes the EFF’s threats seriously.

We will not sit back and allow the EFF to threaten businesses, livelihoods and lives.

There is mounting evidence on social media and in public statements by EFF leaders, members and supporters that they are fully prepared to break the law in pursuit of their own political agenda.

The EFF’s explicit threats of violence and acts of intimidation include:

A picture on social media of the EFF Mpumalanga leader in full red EFF-branded clothing posing with a semi-automatic rifle, and a caption saying: "By all means necessary or possible we are ready @EFFSouthAfrica."

A video doing the rounds of EFF party members announcing the shutdown via a loudspeaker from the back of a bakkie, where the speaker is heard saying: "We are saying to you close down all your businesses to avoid the looting. Close down all your shops to avoid the looting. Close down all your factories to avoid the lootings. Close down everything; nothing will be operating on that day; we are avoiding the looting. So, we are saying to you, come and join the march, my brother; come and join the march, my sister."

Giving the Minister of Education seven days to close schools, saying that any child wearing a school uniform will be doing so at their own risk.

Issuing a letter to the OR Tambo Airport authorities warning them not to allow any flights or business activity on the day.

That the Leader of the EFF has stated in no uncertain terms that he and his organisation will not apply for any approval from municipal authorities, who are the regulating authorities assigned to enforce legislation regarding public demonstrations, gatherings and protest action.

This shows that he and his party have no respect for the rule of law and no intention to abide by the regulations governing protest action.

The rule of law

The Democratic Alliance is deeply committed to constitutional democracy and the rule of law.

We wholeheartedly believe both to be essential preconditions for achieving the peaceful, prosperous society that South Africa should and could be.

The rule of law encompasses the notions of equality before the law, and that no one can take the law into their own hands.

In threatening violence and vandalism, the EFF is doing just this - taking the law into their own hands.

The right to undertake peaceful protest action is a legitimate constitutional right and the DA will defend this right, whether it is the DA, the EFF, or any other group or individual that is protesting.

But this right is not unlimited, and it can never constitute justification for criminal behaviour, or behaviour that violates or threatens the rights of others. Just as people have the right to protest, they also have the right to not protest, the right to not associate with the protesting organisation, and the right to go to school or to work or to operate a business, and also to go about their daily lives unhindered and unobstructed.

The DA will therefore do whatever we can to protect others’ within the confides of the law in order to disassociate from the EFF and their cause, and their rights to go to work and operate businesses.

It is completely unacceptable to us that the EFF is trampling on the rights of others, in order to make their own demands heard.

We have written to the Minister of Defence to ensure that they put on standby adequate soldiers for deployment and ensuring that the necessary resources are available in order to ensure that there is no outbreak of violence and looting.

This is all the more objectionable at a time when people are suffering from multiple assaults to their lives and livelihoods, due to the disastrous lockdowns, ongoing high-stage loadshedding, and runaway crime.

Preemptive action

Therefore, the DA is taking steps to preempt this pending violence and prevent it from taking place at all, or at the very least to lessen the harm perpetrated.

First, we are approaching the Court to ensure that the EFF complies with the conditions of permits issued by relevant Municipalities giving permission for peaceful protest.

Second, we are seeking a Court interdict to ensure that the EFF leadership formally retracts all intimidation letters that they have issued, such as the letter issued to OR Tambo Airport warning the airport authority not to allow any flights or business activity on the day.

Third, our lawyers have drafted a template affidavit that can be used by any business owner who has been intimidated by any EFF representatives, to report such behaviour and press formal charge of intimidation against the leadership of the EFF and its local representatives who act on behalf of the EFF’s national leadership, and to request that the SAPS prevent, combat and investigate any violation of the legislation that regulates demonstrations, gatherings and events in South Africa. We call on all South Africans to stand with us against EFF thuggery.

Fourth, the DA has written to Police Minister Bheki Cele to highlight the imminent threat posed to the economy, public and private infrastructure, as well as to the safety of citizens, by the EFF’s planned nationwide shutdown.
We have called on Minister Cele to issue a strong statement against the National Shutdown and assuring South Africans that the SAPS and the entire security cluster is on standby to respond to violence.

Fifth, we have written to President Ramaphosa asking him to issue a stern preemptive warning that no violence, vandalism or intimidation will be tolerated, and that any such behaviour will meet the full force of the law.

Sixth, we have resolved to press charges against the EFF and hold them personally liable for any damage done to person, property, lives and livelihoods perpetrated during their so-called shutdown.

Where the DA governs

Where the DA governs it will be business as usual. Our Law Enforcement and Traffic Services personnel will work closely with SAPS to maintain law and order and to hold any acts of vandalism and violence to account.

Those responsible for vandalism or violence will be arrested. The DA is committed to creating a safe society, growing the economy, and to create an environment that is conducive to economic growth and job creation.

Nonsensical demands

We reject outright the EFF’s call for a “nationwide shutdown”.

This is not just an illegal, but also a nonsensical, demand. It makes no sense at all to instigate a nationwide shutdown to protest loadshedding.

Shutting the economy down for a day will do nothing at all to solve this problem that has been decades in the making.

On the contrary, it will only push South Africa deeper into chaos and poverty. We are calling on state security to learn the lessons of the 2021 July riots and look at the short comings as identified in the report investing the riots and there by ensuring greater cooperation between all the security clusters.

Powerful protest mechanism

If people want change, the most powerful protest mechanism available to them is their vote.

There is no better place to bring about social change than at the ballot box. In 2024, we South Africans have an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to constitutional democracy and the rule of law, by turning our backs on the EFF’s politics of chaos and destruction and by instead embracing the DA’s commitment to the rule of law and a growing economy.

Issued by John Steenhuisen, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 14 March 2023