News / South Africa

Marc Ashton
2 minute read
8 Apr 2017
10:39 am

PICS: Police defuse tensions at Gupta HQ

Marc Ashton

Proactive crowd management.

The South African Police Services (SAPS) have come in for a lot of stick over the last couple of years, particularly around the handling of the student fees protests, but their handling of the situation at the Gupta residence in Saxonwold deserves some credit.

A small but vocal crowd of residents and Anti-Zuma supporters descended onto Saxonwold late on Friday afternoon to protest the presence of the family which has been at the centre of a variety of “State Capture” allegations and reports.

Tensions rose with the arrival of a group of Black First Land First (BLF) protestors who were chanting pro-Zuma slogans and trying to force anti-Zuma supporters away from the entrance to the house. At least one firearm was confiscated in an initial scuffle between the various parties.

The Johannesburg Metro Police and SAPS kept a watchful eye on proceedings, stepping in whenever BLF supporters picked up sticks or branches and separating the protestors when tensions ran high.

Policing of protests is a thankless task when trying to separate passionate supporters but the police officials on duty on Friday afternoon deserve credit for their handling of the scene. They were quick to intervene when BLF members became aggressive but were equally efficient to chastise opposition supporters who were quick to aggravate the BLF supporters and then run to the police for protection.

Amidst the tension, there was a comical moment when one anti-Zuma protestor began handing out flyers for a drinks special / camp-out at the “Saxonwold Shebeen” – the nickname given to the Gupta residence. BLF members initially began reading the flyers with some curiosity until they realized they had been duped. Suffice to say, tensions rose from there.

“What is BLF actually protesting?”
While there were some scuffles which were eventually broken up with a loud-hailer and a few stun grenades, there seemed to be genuine confusion about what BLF was actually protesting against.

Allegedly the creation of UK PR firm Bell Pottinger, BLF is a movement aimed at returning land to black South Africans and sport T-shirts with the slogan “Land or Death”.

 When asked by Moneyweb what they were protesting about, one BLF member said: “We are fighting the ANC and settlers from taking our land”. Another said: “We are stopping Pravin from becoming president and handing over the economy to White Monopoly Capital”.

When Anti-Zuma protestors pointed out that the Gupta complex – which BLF was defending – represented foreigners taking a major tract of valuable land in South Africa, they were met with jeers of “Voetsek” and intimidation.

On a day when patriotism and tensions ran high, the police services won’t get the credit they deserve but for those who wanted to exercise the democratic right to protest, they played an impartial role in managing this situation.

Below are some pictures from the protest:

gupta-hq1 gupta-hq2 gupta-hq4 guptahq3
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