Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


National shutdown: Impact was ‘not huge’

EFF holding protest between a weekend and public holiday baffles expert.


Although not a clearcut victory, with Cyril Ramaphosa still sitting as president, unemployment high and load shedding on the cards, some experts have argued Monday’s national shutdown achieved what it needed to. But some say it was not a victory because it was nowhere near as disruptive as anticipated. What did national shutdown achieve? Following the Economic Freedom Fighters-led protest in various parts of the country, the political party claimed victory, saying the action was successful, peaceful and carried out with the utmost discipline – but it also showed unity in dissatisfaction with Ramaphosa’s governance. Political analyst Ongama Mtimka said…

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Although not a clearcut victory, with Cyril Ramaphosa still sitting as president, unemployment high and load shedding on the cards, some experts have argued Monday’s national shutdown achieved what it needed to.

But some say it was not a victory because it was nowhere near as disruptive as anticipated.

What did national shutdown achieve?

Following the Economic Freedom Fighters-led protest in various parts of the country, the political party claimed victory, saying the action was successful, peaceful and carried out with the utmost discipline – but it also showed unity in dissatisfaction with Ramaphosa’s governance.

Political analyst Ongama Mtimka said although the protest achieved what it was supposed to – which should be claimed as a victory – “the EFF could have easily explored a motion of no confidence in parliament”.

“But when you organise a protest it’s a way of mobilising public anger and giving it a form of expression other than the invited spaces where the state invites citizens to make input,” he said. “This is a form of political communication which will remain for the longest time a part of the political communication repertoire of South Africa as a protest capital of the world.”

Success or damp squib?

However, political science professor at the University of Stellenbosch Amanda Gouws said, Tuesday “was a public holiday, which made Monday part of the long weekend, schools were closed and lots of people were away, which decreases businesses and people staying away from work”.

“What they managed was to cost a lot of money because you have the police [on] every corner which costs money, but it wasn’t a success,” she said. “People didn’t come out in their numbers; they didn’t say Ramaphosa should go, so actually it shows us a threshold of their support, which is the same as it is at the polls, and may be even lower after the protest and [the EFF’s] antics in parliament. I wouldn’t call it a success; it’s more like a damp squib.”

ALSO READ: EFF-led protests could become more common as 2024 elections draw closer

Reacting to the “mother of all shutdowns”, chief economist at Econometrix Dr Azar Jammine agreed with Gouws, saying the shutdown was less disruptive than anticipated.

“The economic impact was not huge. We’ve got to bear in mind we often had strikes which lasted longer than a single day in some important industries, such as metals, mining or even public service.

“I cannot understand why the EFF chose a day in between a weekend and public holiday to have the shutdown.

“I thought their whole objective was to be as disruptive economically as possible, but where I do believe we will see some negative impact would be on small black businesses which … unfortunately lost out on a day’s income.”

He said the protest proved that, “if they put their minds to it, the police can still be relatively effective, which is a very important issue because in the past few years, we’ve seen a marked deterioration in the implementation of law and order in SA”.

ALSO READ: ‘Shutdown will hit taxpayer in the pocket’

Meanwhile, ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, calling the protest a “flop” on Twitter, said: “EFF plans of shutdown in our country through chaos has failed. They are left isolated in many parts of the country, their attempt to insight [sic] insurrection by using electricity crisis has failed.”

ANC national spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri thanked South Africans for not joining the “extremist and regressive so-called shutdown” and said “SA was no place for vigilantism and forceful removal of an incumbent government”.

“The ANC is fully committed to doing what the people expect, demand and deserve,” she said.

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