Protesters threatened by thugs

SaveSA supporters warned to leave Church Square in Pretoria

Save South Africa supporters camped out at Church Square in Pretoria were threatened last night by a group of thugs, who burnt their banners‚ vowing to defend President Jacob Zuma. Civillians had gathered there in a tent as part of several planned protests against Zuma and his controversial cabinet reshuffle that was followed by a credit ratings agency downgrade of the country’s economy and saw the rand tumble.

SaveSA activist Themba Masango said thugs had arrived and made threatening remarks.

“We’ve just had an incident right now where a few thugs‚ for a lack of a better word‚ came through here‚ ripped off banners and burnt them‚” he said.

“They specifically said we should leave Church Square and that they were going to burn this tent down tonight.

“They are saying they are going to defend Zuma.”

SaveSA spokesman Mark Haywood said a group of about 10‚ maybe 15‚ people who identified with the ANC, had arrived and begun threatening violence against the people inside the tent.

The group called the protesters counter-revolutionaries. “We responded peacefully‚” he said. Haywood said the group had also broken a tent.

“We have photographs of these people. One is an ANC councillor‚ we are told. One is an ANCYL leader in the Pretoria area,” he said.

“We will report it to the police. We will lay charges against these people and we won’t be intimidated.”

Companies across the country will shut their doors and some will give their employees the day off to attend a series of anti- Zuma marches tomorrow.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, SaveSA co-organiser Mkhuseli Jack said they expected thousands of people to gather in front of the Port Elizabeth City Hall.

Although most Bay businesses will be open, a few will shut their doors.

Port Elizabeth Property Network director Colin Fibiger said all staff would be given a day off tomorrow.

“The time has come to once again take a stand,” he said.

Boardwalk Hotel, Casino and Entertainment Complex general manager Mike van Vuuren said it would be a normal working day for the facility.

“We will continue to trade, but this does not mean we are not supporting the national cause,” he said.

VWSA spokesman Matt Genrich said a decision would be made today on whether the company would be open or not.

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber spokeswoman Cindy Preller said: “Some of our member companies have indicated they will be closed for the day or that their employees have applied for leave to take part in protest actions.

“Others have indicated they will continue to operate as usual.”

The Algoa Taxi Association, Northern Area Taxi Association, SA National Taxi Council and the Port Elizabeth and District Taxi Association will be available to transport passengers around the Bay.

Northern Area Taxi Association secretary Terrence Langtry said: “We support this campaign and will transport passengers with vehicle headlights on.”

In Cape Town, among others, Old Mutual‚ which has hundreds of employees at its Pinelands headquarters, will allow them to take a day of annual leave should they want to participate in protests.

In Johannesburg, the DA has amended the route of the planned march to the ANC headquarters at Luthuli House after threats of violence.

“Numerous threats of violence have been received from the ANC’s Youth League‚ as well as certain branches within the ANC‚” the DA said.

The March for Change would now begin at the Westgate Transport Hub at 10am tomorrow.

The Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association in KwaZulu-Natal said yesterday it would defend Zuma “with our lives” if the marches took place.

It said they would send 600 combatready soldiers to defend the party’s headquarters. – TMG Digital / The Times and Hendrick Mphande

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