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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

National shutdown: Malema ‘assures’ Santaco taxis won’t be affected

The EFF will be taking to streets calling for an end to load shedding and that President Cyril Ramaphosa step down.

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) said it does not have any reason to believe that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will disrupt taxis during the party’s national shutdown on 20 March, after getting assurance from the red berets leader Julius Malema.

Santaco national spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa on Thursday said the association will not be taking part in the national protest on Monday and will treat it as a normal operational working day.

Watch: “Fighters defend yourself”: Malema on national shutdown

Violence and intimidation

“Following the meeting between Santaco and the leadership of the EFF, you are hereby advised that Santaco has decided that the taxi industry will not participate in the planned shutdown.”

Asked if Santaco would retaliate after it was reported that the EFF would not mind a “repeat of the Sharpeville massacre”, Molelekwa said it would be “unfair” for the red berets to disrupt taxis on the day of the shutdown.

“In our discussion with the leader of the EFF, he assured us cooperation on the day… It would be unfair given the commitment the parties gave to each other in the meeting.

“The EFF came to Santaco to say we regard you as an important stakeholder. So, our view is that we do not have any reasons to worry, but should that happen, we will engage with the EFF because based on what you are saying there could be issues of confrontation,” Molelekwa said.

Directive to regional members

Molelekwa said Santaco has issued a letter to members in all provinces to inform their respective regions and taxi associations that 20 March 2023 will be a normal operating day for the taxi industry during the national shutdown.

“We have urged them to cooperate and work harmoniously with the protesting members.”

Santaco’s response comes as thousands of EFF supporters are expected to take to streets calling for a national shutdown in protest to the increased load shedding and also demanding for President Cyril Ramaphosa to step down.

Malema warning

While police have warned that officers would be on high alert during the EFF countrywide shutdown, party leader Julius Malema himself has warned law enforcement officials not to intimidate any of the protestors who will be taking part in the demonstrations.

An undeterred and bold Malema said on Wednesday it will not be business as usual on Monday 20 March as he vowed to shut down the entire country.

ALSO READ: WATCH: National shutdown: ‘Let history repeat itself, we are not scared,’ says Malema

‘Defend yourselves’

The red berets leader said he has received information that police have been instructed to be heavy handed during the protest.

Speaking during a media briefing at the party’s headquarters in Johannesburg, Malema spurred supporters to defend themselves.

“Fighters defend yourself. Anyone who’s trigger happy show them times two what you can do. We are not going to give the other side, we’re coming in peace, we’re not fighting anyone. But don’t try us.

“Fighters, progressive South Africans conduct yourself peacefully. But anyone who comes with nonsense, do not tolerate nonsense from anyone. It doesn’t matter who they are, we are not scared of them,” Malema said.

Police on alert

Police spokesperson Athlenda Mathe said the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) is on high alert for any sign of unrest on the day of the EFF shutdown.

“There will be no national shutdown. And we are assuring [people] that we have put measures in place to ensure the safety and security of all people,” she said.

ALSO READ: ‘Streets are calling’: EFF urges citizens to occupy streets during national shutdown

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