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Ramaphosa has shut down the nation

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Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA) – EFF presser on shut-down, March 15, 2023. EFF Commander in Chief, Julius Malema gives a run down of what is happening around the National Shut-down on Monday March 20.

By Kim Heller

The EFF-led national march is set to turn South Africa’s Monday blues red-hot. The party’s leader, Julius Malema, has said that this march will be “the mother of all shutdowns”. Among others, the EFF has galvanised the support of significant organisations including PAC and SAFTU.

In typical DA fashion, the Mayor of Cape Town has declared South Africa’s mother city as a no-go zone for the march. Hill-Lewis, the DA’s mayor of Cape Town said, “Don’t be stupid, don’t organise a national shutdown and don’t try that nonsense in Cape Town.” But the very idea and purpose of the national shutdown planned for Monday 20 March 2023 appears to have found favour across the breadth and depth of South Africa.

At the top of the EFF’s list of demands is for President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign. It is not an unreasonable request, nor is it a stupid one, given the tower of economic collapse under his administration. Ramaphosa’s economic mismanagement, mishaps, fuddle, and muddle has had a devastating impact on ordinary citizens. Cyril Ramaphosa, the very President who some believed would energise the economy, has slowly but surely caused it great harm. Load-shedding, rather than job creation, has become the national currency of the economy in Ramaphosa’s New Dawn. South Africa’s rolling energy blackouts have embarrassingly become a universally recognised emblem of the Ramaphosa era.

The anger and condemnation voiced by some journalists, analysts and politicians against the EFF and the other organisations who will be lining the streets of South Africa on Monday is entirely misplaced. This anger should be correctly routed and directed to the President himself for he has taken us down a dangerous path.

It is President Cyril Ramaphosa who has effectively shut down the nation with his ruinous rule. The economy is in bad shape and is set to deteriorate further. There is an alarming lack of accountability on the side of the President or the governing party, the ANC, for such damage. And the increasingly street-unwise governing party is doing very little to relieve the burden of citizens, or stop the imminent collapse of businesses, big and small.

Yet, Julius Malema is the baddie.

According to the DA, the EFF-led shutdown is not only a threat to the economy but to citizens and infrastructure. “The EFF’s dangerous and violent political tactics are an attack on the livelihoods of hard working, law abiding South Africans and are an attack on our democracy.”

Those who are arguing that the march has the potential to turn violent appear oblivious to the everyday violence of ongoing economic hardship and desperate poverty for the majority of South Africans, exacerbated now by loadshedding. Such people speak as if democracy is working for the majority of South Africans. It is not. Those who speak of marches or protests as acts of violence have paid little or inadequate heed to the immeasurable and inhumane violence of flaming historical poverty and the impact of loadshedding on the poorest of citizens. A few weeks ago, I was asked to assist in finding some relief for three young orphans whose parents had burnt to death in their little shack after a candle used for light in the dark of loadshedding caused a fatal fire. The young children who survived the fire will carry the worst of scars, both physically and psychologically, into an uncertain future.

It is not marches or protests that are intrinsically violent. What is innately violent is a government that does not serve its people and an economy that does not adequately provide for or feed its workers.

There is a violence in the very passivity of citizens who watch helplessly as a real-life tragedy unfolds before them. There is a silent yet screaming violence in being a prisoner of one’s very own inertia.

In his easy step election campaigning in KZN this weekend, Cyril Ramaphosa admitted that South Africa was in a “rut”. He said that he needed “all hands on deck” to address the challenges faced by the country. But he is responsible for the mess, not ordinary citizens. Paved in mass destruction and distraction, Ramaphosa’s long game of privatisation of Eskom has all but brought the country to a standstill. His inability to create much promised jobs, better services, more housing and secure international investment is placing South Africa in a deep sinkhole from which it may never rise. But Ramphosa was optimistic as he told a gathering in Pietermaritzburg “I can smell the victory. I can see it and I can touch it.”

In an article in BusinessTech this week, Mason Du Plessis wrote how economic growth prospects for the country have been sliding lower and lower. He writes how the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has adjusted its annual growth estimate for the economy from a dismal 1.1% to a shocker of just 0.3%. Du Plessis writes that economists are warning that things could well get even worse.

During his campaigning this last weekend, the President said that the challenges facing communities will be a thing of the past. ‘We are aware of the lack of development; we are aware of the electricity problems. The ANC is attending to all these problems’.

But citizens are growing more and more wary. They are becoming less likely, in these worst of times, to be sated by a poor serving of democracy every five years. Or to be as easily charmed, as they once were, by the fake chain of Presidential coated promises. Citizens are growing angry. Justifiably so. And rage is mounting. The great US political leader, Malcolm X said “Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”

Calls for Ramaphosa to resign or for loadshedding to come to an end is not the voice of protest but of patriotism. It is far more responsible for citizens who are concerned about the well-being and future of their country to take to the streets in protest than to be pedestrians or bystanders in their own downfall.

Heller is a political analyst and author of ‘No White Lies: Black Politics and White Power in South Africa.’

This article was written exclusively for The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.