SA army on standby for Monday's planned national shutdown, warns defence minister

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Defence Minister Thandi Modise has issued a stern warning to those taking part in the planned national shutdown on Monday that soldiers would be on standby. Photo: Deon Raath
Defence Minister Thandi Modise has issued a stern warning to those taking part in the planned national shutdown on Monday that soldiers would be on standby. Photo: Deon Raath


Defence Minister Thandi Modise has issued a stern warning to those taking part in the planned national shutdown on Monday that soldiers would be on standby.

Modise, who was speaking during a media briefing of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) on Thursday, said those responsible for organising the planned protest have done so on social media for a long time.

Modise stated:

We are on standby. If there is a weakness in the security cluster, it is that we have allowed people to use social media to plan and intimidate, and we have not followed up. We want to assure you this time we will not let it go. That is the weakness we will accept, that is the weakness we are in the process of remedying.

Modise’s comments followed those of Police Minister Bheki Cele, who assured everyone that next Monday would be business as usual, despite the planned mass protests.

"We want to assure everyone in the country that the 20th of March will be a normal business day. All ports of entry, land, sea and air will be operational," said Cele.

Cele, who was speaking on behalf of other JCPS ministers, added they had noted the planned protest action for Monday. 

He said:

We have also noted the mobilisation undertaken in various communication platforms for members of the public to join the protest action. Government lauds residents and businesses who refuse to be intimidated or bullied and assures them that everyone in South Africa and their property will be protected.

Cele has assured measures have been put in place to ensure that everyone who wants to go to work, travel for leisure and conduct business on this day does so in a secure environment. Law enforcement officers will be out in their numbers to protect them while enforcing the law, he said.

"Anyone who intimidates, stops anyone from going to work, barricades the roads and highways and uses any form of violence to try and stop our people from going on with their lives will face the full might of the law. We also want to caution against the spreading of messages of fear, intimidation or inflammatory statements that could incite violence. This is a criminal offence. We are aware of many social media accounts claiming that hundreds and thousands of followers are being mobilised to support the protest." 

READ: JMPD has ‘no plans’ for national shutdown on Wednesday

Cele said many communities and various sectors of society, including Santaco, the National Taxi Association, the Road Freight Association and organised structures within communities, have rejected this call. 

"We are aware that social media platforms are being used to give credence to the protest and want to encourage our people not to believe everything they read on social media. Government will be providing people with information through credible government channels. We will be closely monitoring the situation throughout the country and will act swiftly and decisively against any threats or disruptions. There will be high police visibility. Our law enforcement agencies through the NatJoints will ensure multidisciplinary deployments and that the necessary contingency plans are already in place. The NatJoints will be briefing the nation on its plans for the planned protest," he stated.

Cele added:

Sporting events will continue as per the programmes of their different sports associations. We will ensure that businesses continue to operate on that day and that roads are accessible. All government services will be available as normal. Heads of government departments and accounting officers in the public service will continue to ensure that our citizens receive the services they expect from their government.

The minister said those who would be participating in any form of protest action around the country must ensure that they do so peacefully. 

"No form of violence and criminality will be tolerated. The Constitution guarantees the right to protest peacefully and within the ambit of the law, and protesters must not infringe on the rights of others," he warned. 

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