'Austerity kills!' – Activists hijack Mboweni's virtual panel talk

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.
Gallo Images/Ziyaad Douglas
  • A virtual panel discussion featuring Finance Minister Tito Mboweni was hijacked and flooded with screams of "austerity kills".
  • The event, organised by the Bishopz Foundation, took place on Thursday evening and was meant to discuss South Africa's economic outlook.
  • As Mboweni was about to be given the platform to speak, Zoom attendants wrote in the chat function: "#CODERED We demand an end to austerity!"

A virtual panel discussion featuring Finance Minister Tito Mboweni was hijacked and flooded with screams of "austerity kills" by a group of activists who attended the discussion via online virtual meeting platform Zoom.

The event, organised by the Bishopz Foundation, took place on Thursday evening and was meant to discuss South Africa's economic outlook in the context of the unrest that swept South Africa last week and wrought billions in damage to the South African economy.

The rioting - which started with outrage at jailing of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court by refusing to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture - morphed into the looting of stores and destruction of businesses.

As government continues to grapple with the economic impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, government will now have to introduce interventions to soften the blow of job losses and potential food shortages in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal as a result of the unrest.

As Mboweni was about to be given the platform to speak, Zoom attendant Itumeleng Mothlabane wrote in the chat function: "#CODERED We demand an end to austerity!"

Users, including one called "#CodeRed" and another called "Austerity Kills", wrote the phrase "austerity kills" in the chat function of the Zoom meeting.

Multiple guests in the virtual meeting then switched on their microphones and shouted "austerity kills!", disrupting the meeting. Organisers managed to remove the activists from the meeting, but Mboweni had left.

Organisers temporarily put a halt to the meeting to establish where Mboweni was and whether he would be able to continue with the discussion.

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