All about “The Shutdown”

It was all a bit weird from the start. Populist, vocal, flipflopping political party, known for its publicity stunts and – let’s be honest here – “occasional” forays into violent protest, calls for a day of National Shutdown to end loadshedding and oust the President. But given that their grievances are an ongoing thing, it was odd that they gave us all six or seven weeks notice.

Until you realise that they had chosen the Monday 20th March because it falls in between a weekend and Tuesday 21st March – a public holiday. Schools were closed, many people would have taken one day of leave from work to get an extra long weekend: it would likely be quiet anyway. This did not go unnoticed by some people:

But it did meant that the organisers could easily claim that images of quiet cities and empty streets were down to support for their cause, when actually, a control for their experiment would have yielded much the same result.

And then there were the veiled threats. Shut your business or it might get looted. Shut down your airport – or else:

Hint: Don’t mess with a national keypoint, guys. Silly move.

And many of those businesses (not the airport) won’t be open today Not because they are supporting the protest, but more that that they are terrified of the potential violence that might befall them, should they open. And while the leaders of the party are publicly calling for peaceful protest, the EFF dosen’t have a great record at doing that:

I’m not saying that today’s EFF protests will be/would have been violent. I’m just saying that their history is enough to assume that there’s a fair chance that it won’t all be peaceful. And in the lead up to the protest, over 24,000 tyres (the SA protestors weapon of choice):

were found – many of them sequestered at strategically important localities like major intersections – and removed.

So when journalists report that “street vendors stayed away”, and the EFF supporters claim that shows endorsement for the protest, I’m more willing to believe that it’s just for the vendors’ safety and that of their businesses.

And then there’s the misinformation, because there always is misinformation. Old videos, old pictures, entirely normal traffic jams: the works. Thankfully, all debunked here. But not before they have had millions of impressions on social media.

Oh, and the video of Adderley Street in Cape Town, now supposedly in Pretoria.

Also, it rained in Cape Town this morning. It rained a lot. Now I’ve never been a fan of sports which are stopped by a bit of rain (tennis, padel, cricket etc…). And the rain certainly kept the protest numbers down around here. Much to the amusement of the mayor:

Cheap shot, agreed, but I reckon that he’ll be extremely glad that the weather helped his city out today. And after all the sabre-rattling, intimidation, threats and bravado from the other side, why not push back a little?

It’s 4:30pm now, and there have only been sporadic or unverified (at the time of writing) incidents across the country, thus far. It seemed like a lot of people stayed away from the protests instead of work – there have been a lot of images of tiny groups of red-shirted individuals from various places around the country.

A couple of valid(?) points have been raised though. The sudden availability of police officers to combat any trouble that may arise, when they’re usually nowhere to be found when actual crime happens to actual individuals. That said, I do know that they are working unsustainable shift patterns in many places to have extra numbers on the ground today. Even Struisbaai SAPS has 12 hour shifts going on this weekend, and the EFF only managed 20 votes there in the recent by-election.
And the sudden availability of electricity, as well. Is it really down to hard work and good luck, or can the powers that be actually positively affect loadshedding? And if so, how? Because if so, that’s quite sinister. Why aren’t they doing it all the time? The proof of the pudding here will be what happens tomorrow and the rest of the week.
And finally – why the panic by the government? Lots of police, lots of talk, lots of unnecessary drama:

“Regime change”? “Unconstitutional means”? (Let’s talk about constitutional means after the elections next year.) And the military on standby. Overkill. Sorry – poor choice of words.

All in all, an awful lot of “all mouth, no trousers” again, as it usually is in SA politics.
OK, in worldwide politics, but especially in SA politics.
Still a few hours of the day to go, though. And then the rest of the year.

Anything could happen.

And what’s happening here? Well, I’m going to have a beer, because my fridge hasn’t been shut down.