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South Africa’s Big Shutdown

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Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA) – The Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema has called on a national shutdown to force South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign, the writer says, adding that it may well be the true SONA of 2023.

By Kim Heller

On the eve of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Cyril Ramaphosa, on February 9, 2023, Julius Malema has announced that the EFF will lead the ‘mother of all protests’ on 20 March 2023.

The march to the Union buildings is set to be a massive, people-driven call for the removal of the incumbent President who is materially failing the nation. The march is also a long-in-the-making national protest against the long-life loadshedding which is plunging South Africa into a state of disaster. “Cyril Ramaphosa must step aside with immediate effect,” Malema said at Sunday’s press conference.

The EFF-led march is no child’s play for this young radical political party, unlike many other political formations and groupings, has both the might and the muscle to bring the country to a standstill. The 20 March 2023, which Malema describes as a national day of action, will see a strong display of people’s power and outrage against a government whose word is no longer the lingo of the common man and woman of South Africa.

With the growing disdain towards and neglect of ordinary South African citizens over recent years, the ANC has moved from being a party for and of the people, to a self-serving, self-enriching government that is today the very antithesis of people’s power. It is a tragic trajectory for this once noble liberation movement.

Scenes of thousands and thousands of Sri Lankans citizens on the streets of their long-suffering nation, in March 2022, remind us of the power and fury of a people. Citizens protested en masse against the President’s mismanagement of the economy, misrule, and corruption. The nation had been plagued by serious petrol shortages and daily electricity outages. In the end, people’s power won, albeit it short-lived, and the President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksathe, was forced to resign.

Malema is clear that Ramaphosa must resign and that loadshedding must end. Few can argue with Malema’s assessment of Ramaphosa as a “useless” and “incompetent” president who has taken South Africa into “the dark ages”, through his inability to deal with the disabling and crippling rip of loadshedding. “Whether Ramaphosa likes it or not”, Malema said during Sunday’s press conference, “he is a mess for this country”.

The dreadful state of the South African nation, the ANC and Eskom, is no natural disaster but a man-made mess. And as it is during times of economic hardship, it is the poorest and the most vulnerable who will suffer deepest injury. Things are looking dire. The MD of Food Forward SA (FFSA), Andy Du Plessis, paints a bleak picture of how loadshedding is not only threatening food security but how daily life is becoming increasingly desperate for many who have to choose between buying food or buying electricity Du Plessis said: “the real impact of loadshedding goes well beyond being unable to turn on our lights or charge our phones for a few hours a day. It’s triggering an unprecedented collapse of South Africa’s economy, infrastructure, and future”.

In his latest string of prose on resolving the energy crisis, Ramaphosa told the ANC Lekgotla that loadshedding must end or be lowered by the end of the year. It is a haughty hum of inactivity. Mr Renewal is slowly but steadily losing any measure of credibility, and South Africa is fast running out of time.

This week, the ANC’s Lekgotla may have resolved to declare the country’s energy crisis as a national state of disaster but in truth it is the country’s leadership crisis that is the real national state of disaster. And there is no quick fix. Despite years of promises, consultation and high-level political interventions, the ANC appears to be out of ideas and solutions.

The ANC has plunged South Africa into a state of disaster. The EFF’s march will shut down a nation that has been summarily collapsed by the ANC, over many years, and which has now been brought to a total standstill by the Ramaphosa administration.

There is much merit in Malema’s clarion call for a national shutdown. South Africans have tolerated far too much and like the people of Sri Lanka, are saying ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”.

Malema is calling for accountability while Ramaphosa’ own party has failed to hold him accountable for possible flagrant violations of the South African law and Constitution. Malema said, at Sunday’s press conference: “It’s not me but a judge who said he has a case to answer for having undeclared dollars at his farm”.

February’s SONA is likely to be, yet another pit of empty keystone promises from a President who seems to be crumbling rather than fixing party and state. ANC MP’s will cheer for their man, nonetheless.

Ramaphosa has urged the ANC to start the election campaign early. It is going to be a hard sell for those who don their smiley-face ANC regalia and try and sell long expired goods to a weary electorate.

Ramaphosa says if the ANC does not renew, it will perish. Perhaps the perish of the ANC is critical if the state of the nation is to be truly renewed.

It is significant that the EFF-led “shut down the nation” march is being held one day before the 63rd anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre, when sixty-nine black South Africans who were protesting peacefully against racist pass laws, were killed by apartheid’s policemen. Malema has been vocal that the march will go ahead irrespective of any attempts or threats to stop the march. Malema said: “Bring your state power, we will bring our mass power … like Sharpeville, we are not afraid of the State power, let the State come with its power, we will come with mass power.”

Malema said “freedom is coming” after 20 March. The 20 March is set to be a day of reckoning in a people vs the president historical protest. It may well be remembered as the true SONA of 2023.

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.