EFF shutdown: 33 arrested at Woolies in Sandton

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EFF members picketed in the streets of Johannesburg CBD as they heeded a call by their leader Julius Malema to force President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign and for the end to load shedding.
EFF members picketed in the streets of Johannesburg CBD as they heeded a call by their leader Julius Malema to force President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign and for the end to load shedding.
Photo by Morapedi Mashashe
  • Police confirmed that 33 protesters linked to EFF shutdown were arrested at a Woolworths in Sandton.
  • The arrests were made after the group tried to disrupt the operations of the store by blocking its entrances.
  • There have been reports of a few sporadic incidents across SA, to which police have had to attend.
  • BUSA says a strong police presence is keeping any situations under control. 
  • For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.

More than 30 protesters linked to the national EFF shutdown were arrested on Monday after they tried to disrupt the operations of a Woolworths in Sandton.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe confirmed that a total of 33 protestors had been arrested for "contravention of a court order, public violence and intimidation".

She was referring to a South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg order at the weekend, which prohibited the EFF, its members, employees, and officials from shutting down shops or interfering with trading at retail stores and other businesses.

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa, which represents some of the country's biggest retailers including Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Woolworths, Spar and Walmart-owned Massmart, also confirmed the incident, but said it was only one of a few sporadic incidents reported across the country by its members in the wake of the rolling mass action launched by the political party on Monday.

Abraham Nelson, executive of the Consumer Goods Crime Risk Initiative for the CGCSA, told News24 that the incident took place at a Woolworths Food store in Grayston Drive when a group of EFF-affiliated protesters entered the store and sat down at the entrances so they could block entry into the store.

Nelson said police were called, who then dispersed the group and made arrests.

But apart from this incident and a few others in the south of Johannesburg, the city centre, and Limpopo, he said the CGCSA's members had all reported that it was mostly "business as usual" for them.

Nelson said the incidents that had taken place involved "small groups" with the police being able to easily disperse them.

Michael Lawrence, who heads up the National Clothing Retail Federation (NCRF), said that by early afternoon no incidents had been reported to him. The federation's members include Foschini owner TFG, Truworths, Woolworths, Mr Price, Pick n Pay Clothing, Queenspark, Cape Union Mart, the LA Group, Cotton On and Retailability.

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) said there had been some marches, but these had been "well controlled by police".

BUSA CEO Cas Coovadia said the organisation had also received reports that up to 2 000 to 3 000 people were marching to Sandton from Alexandra township and that another focal point for protest action was at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The business body's members included the Manufacturing Circle, which represents industrial companies and the CGCSA, among others.

Coovadia said the "police presence on the ground is pretty heavy and they are acting immediately", which was helping to keep any situations under control.  

Meanwhile, some of SA's biggest banks reported earlier that it was a case of business as usual, even as they continued to monitor the situation.

Standard Bank said it had experienced "no material impact on its ability to service our clients".

Capitec Bank said all its branches, call centres and head offices remained open for business in unaffected areas, adding that "key decision-makers with the support of a trained on-the-ground operational intelligence team are continuously monitoring the situation for any potential risks".

Another of the big five banks, which did not want to be named, said there had been "no issues or interruptions across any of our branches across the country at this stage".

An Absa spokesperson said the safety of staff and customers was of paramount importance. Absa had comprehensive contingency plans to help insulate its operations from Monday's protest, and to provide uninterrupted banking services to its customers. To ensure the safety of staff and customers, an isolated number of branches were temporarily closed in areas that were less stable.

With Carin Smith

* This article was updated with comment by Absa.

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