Protests against President Jacob Zuma expected to go ahead throughout the country could take an ugly turn if staunch supporters of the president stay true to their threats to defend him and the ANC against the “enemy”.
The main march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, organised by the Save SA campaign, had to turn to the courts at the eleventh hour after organisers received a “prohibition notice” from the Tshwane metro police yesterday afternoon.
The campaign had to apply to the chief magistrate of Pretoria for an urgent interdict to review and set aside the notice so its march could go ahead.
Just before 7.30pm, the court ruled in Save SA’s favour and the march was given the go-ahead.
Activists from different organisations and civil society had already started gathering in Church Square, where the march will start.
On Wednesday night, a group of men reportedly burnt their banners‚ vowing to “defend Zuma”, but this has not deterred the protesters.
The DA, which is organising a march in Johannesburg, has also been threatened by members of the ANC Youth League in Gauteng, resulting in the opposition party laying a criminal complaint.
The party was originally going to march to the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters, but changed its mind after police said they could not guarantee their safety.
The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association in KwaZulu-Natal reportedly has said it is sending 600 former guerrillas to defend Luthuli House.
Yesterday, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court granted an urgent interdict against eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede‚ after she threatened that those marching against Zuma today would be arrested‚ referring to the planned protests as being acts of treason. The court bid was brought by the DA. Zwakele Mncwango‚ the DA’s KwaZulu-Natal leader‚ said the interdict prevented Gumede from further inciting violence or ordering the arrest of protesters.
“This is a victory for the constitutionally enshrined right to protest peacefully‚ and for the democratic principles that underpin our hard-won constitutional democracy‚” he said.
The ANC has distanced itself from calls to de
fend the party. “We condemn in the harshest possible terms reports of people seeking to take up arms in the name of the ANC,” spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni said.
“Such behaviour has no place in a democratic society.”
The party called on South Africans to organise in a calm and measured fashion.
The ANC’s alliance partner, the South African Communist Party (SACP), will march from Marabastad to the national Treasury in Pretoria.
The march will be led by the party’s central committee and Gauteng provincial executive committee members, which includes second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila.
Save SA said Mapaila had pledged support for its campaign and the SACP would join the march to the Union Buildings after its protest.
In Nelson Mandela Bay, Save SA co-organiser Mkhuseli Jack said he expected people to start arriving at the Port Elizabeth City Hall from 12.30pm.
He said approval for the march had been given by the police yesterday afternoon. “We expect people to come in large numbers.” Jack said Fathers House pastor George Georgio would address the crowd, but declined to name other speakers.
He distanced the organisation from a social media message that stated Save SA had arranged for people to drive from the Pick n Pay Hypermarket in William Moffett Expressway to Cape Road and then up Buffelsfontein Road.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said: “We have deployed extra police to ensure that there is no violence.”
Although most Bay businesses will be open, a few will shut their doors.
Jack, who was in East London yesterday advocating for residents to join the Save SA campaign, told a group of prominent leaders and others that it was time for Zuma to step down. “This is a national crisis,” he said. “Our country is headed towards a national collapse. If we sit back and keep quiet, where are we headed to?
“Miracles won’t happen, we need numbers. Numbers are what will bring Zuma down.”