On Monday, thousands of demonstrators marched across the cities of South Africa, demanding that President Cyril Ramaphosa step down for the lack of jobs and electricity, as security personnel patrolled the streets and shopping centers to avoid looting and violence.
South Africans are incensed at the African National Congress (ANC), the country’s ruling party, for failing to provide services and create jobs; a third of the population is unemployed. At the national elections in the following year, analysts anticipate it to lose its parliamentary majority for the first time in thirty years.
Meanwhile, state electricity utility Eskom is implementing the worst rolling blackouts on record, leaving households in the dark for up to 10 hours a day.
“We are not going to do anything. We just walk nicely and raise our concerns,” protest leader Julius Malema, head of the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), said in front of a large crowd gathered at Church Square in Pretoria’s city center before marching to the president’s office.
The EFF party, whose supporters are mainly poor Black South Africans who feel marginalised since the ANC ended white minority rule in 1994, called for a national shutdown – a move which was successful to the extent that many businesses were closed and workers stayed away for lack of transport.
In central Sandton, the financial hub and one of the wealthiest districts in Africa, EFF protesters danced and sang outside its chrome and glass office buildings. Others put their litter in designated bins, heeding calls for a peaceful protest.
Many had crossed a bridge over a freeway from the next-door impoverished township of Alexandra.
“Look at the rich people in Sandton (while) we in Alexandra … are struggling.” said 35-year-old township resident Wendy Sithole, who has not worked since losing her job at a fast food restaurant during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns.
“I’m hungry. There’s no job, there’s no electricity … there’s not enough water,” she added, wearing the trademark red EFF T-shirt.