Protesters hitching rides as march takes toll

2011-10-27 21:09
Johannesburg - The last leg of an ANC Youth League "economic freedom" march was underway on Thursday evening, with scattered groups peacefully continuing the walk from Johannesburg to Pretoria.

Others followed in hundreds of buses and minibus taxis, with registration numbers from various provinces. Several ambulances were also part of the procession.

A large police contingent was waiting for their arrival at the Caledonian stadium in Pretoria. By 20:30, African National Congress Youth League members were on the R101 Old Pretoria Road in Midrand.

The third leg of the march, from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), started around 18:00, with leader Julius Malema leading the crowd on foot.

Several people were seen alternating between walking and hopping onto buses and taxis following the group, while the braver were walking and singing on their 50km trek to Pretoria.

Paramedics helped a man in his 30s who was feeling faint and could not stand. At least three empty buses were waiting on the side of the Old Pretoria Road.

Johannesburg metro police cars followed with flashing blue lights, while police armed with R5 rifles ensured no marchers got onto the M1 North highway from Marlboro Drive in Sandton.

In Pretoria, two television stations had arrived with vans for satellite broadcasts at the Caledonian stadium, where a night vigil was to be held ahead of the handing over a memorandum to the presidency at the Union Buildings on Friday morning.

Portable toilets and a stage had been set up while security staff in fluorescent jackets were dotted around the stadium.

Free my people

Earlier, Malema handed a memorandum of grievances to the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg's city centre, before marching to the JSE in Sandton.

The weary marchers had a brief rest before resuming their walk to Pretoria, although a large number dispersed while others boarded buses and taxis.

Many of them had begun gathering from 05:00 in Beyers Naude Square in the Johannesburg CBD. They only began walking at noon, four hours later than planned due to transport problems.

Led by Malema, police cars, four Casspirs and a water cannon, the group sang and danced through the CBD.

Chamber of Mines CEO Bheki Sibiya undertook to distribute the memorandum to its 55 members.

"We understand that the level of unemployment is too high and we agree with the youth league that the level of poverty is too high," he said.

The league wanted the nationalisation of mines and introduction of probation programmes within companies to give youth skills in mining. Malema urged supporters to exercise "maximum discipline" during their "long walk to economic freedom".

"Take your time and walk. We have the whole day and night. You must not run. We [the leadership] are coming to march with you because we are all from poor backgrounds."

Some of the placards carried by marchers read: "The real freedom is economic not parliamentary. Free my people."

Another, bearing slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's picture, read: "We salute anti-imperialist martyr Gaddafi".

Others read: "90 percent of the economy is still in the hands of the minority" and "Malema we must stand by you through thick and thin."

Stealing our wealth

When the group reached the JSE, Malema chanted: "Down with white capital monopoly. The people who are stealing our wealth must come on stage."

An official from the JSE received the memorandum from Malema, saying only: "Thank you for the opportunity. We will take your demands to the executive."

In response, some members of the crowd sang Dubul'ibhunu (shoot the boer), which has been declared hate speech by a court.

The last mass action by ANCYL members happened outside Luthuli House in central Johannesburg at the start of Malema's disciplinary hearing last month.

Youth league members threw rocks, bottles and bricks at journalists and police, and burnt ANC flags and T-shirts with pictures of President Jacob Zuma printed on them.

The march was taking place a day after testimony in Malema's disciplinary hearing was concluded. He and several co-leaders face charges of bringing the ruling party into disrepute.

Earlier, the SABC reported that members of the Congress of SA Students had forced pupils from Alexandra and Soweto schools to join the march.

Read more on:    chamber of mines  |  jse  |  cosas  |  ancyl  |  bheki sibiya  |  jacob zuma  |  muammar gaddafi  |  julius malema  |  johannesburg  |  protests  |  economy  |  politics

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