FACT CHECK | EFF claims its protest the 'most successful shutdown' in SA history

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  • The EFF made several claims that turned out to be untrue during its "shutdown" on Monday.
  • These include EFF leader Julius Malema's claims that no shop was open in Sandton, that all malls were closed and that it was "the most successful shutdown" in South Africa's history.
  • EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi used footage of buses in Cape Town to claim buses in Pretoria were empty.

On Friday, at a rally before his party's "shutdown" on Monday, EFF leader Julius Malema said: "On Monday, a war has been declared against those who are against progress!"

It is often said that the first casualty of war is the truth, and perhaps Monday was the closest South Africa got to war, despite the deployment of the military.

News24 had a look at some of the claims the EFF made on Monday.

Claim 1: Pretoria's buses are empty

On Monday morning, EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi tweeted video footage of a few buses and taxis at a roundabout and claimed that all buses in Pretoria's central business district were empty because of his party's "shutdown".

"Must Watch: all buses and taxis in PTA CBD have no people inside- empty! They are roaming around wasting petrol because our people are on #stayaway #ItsNotANormalDay #NationalShutdown," Ndlozi tweeted.

The buses – which happened to be Cape Town's MyCiTi buses – and taxis were certainly not filled to capacity. But the roundabout and the fountain where they were going around was the spot where the Heerengracht meets Adderley Street in Cape Town's city centre.  It's not far from Parliament, where Ndlozi represents the EFF.

This writer could see the roundabout from his office window on Monday, and the traffic throughout the day resembled that of a public holiday.

In fact, the original tweet that contained the footage Ndlozi used without attribution came from an SABC journalist based in Cape Town, Bulelani Phillip, who tweeted: "#NationalShutdown Pretty much business as usual for taxis and MyCiti busses in the Cape Town CBD."

Claim 2: Sandton is empty

"There is no shop at Sandton City that is open; why? Because the EFF has spoken and done so without burning a building or doing anything illegal," said Malema as he addressed a crowd of protesters at Church Square in Pretoria.

READ | Malema hints EFF shutdown low turn-out due to canceled buses, ANC thanks SA for not joining marches

News24's reporter in Sandton had a different experience. She found that the streets of Sandton remained rather busy although, perhaps, not as lively as usual.

While some restaurants closed their doors, most restaurants kept their doors open and hosted customers, some playing music. Staff and owners alike watched as the fighters in red occupied what their deputy leader Floyd Shivambu called the "money capital".

People were seen having breakfast and buying coffee as they went about their day. Later, groups heading for lunch filled the streets, guarded by police and private security.

It was not only Malema's claim that Sandton was empty that was proven to be false, but also that the EFF wasn't "doing anything illegal".

National police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said 33 protesters were arrested for "contravention of a court order, public violence and intimidation" at a Woolworths in Sandton, News24 Business reported. This happened before Malema delivered his remarks.

Claim 3: The EFF "shutdown" is responsible for suspended load shedding

"Today (Monday), on my way here, they (Eskom) said they are cancelling load shedding for today because there is no demand for electricity, because the factories are closed," Malema told the crowd in Pretoria.

"The consumers of electricity, which is big business, are closed, and that is how you should measure the success of this shutdown."

In a statement, the EFF made a similar claim.

"It is because of the national shutdown that South Africa has moved from Stage 4 to Stage 1 over the past four days, and [load shedding] was even suspended [on Sunday]," read the statement.

However, in a statement of its own, Eskom announced on Monday that load shedding would be suspended "due to the significantly lower than anticipated demand for electricity".

Load shedding was suspended on Monday from 11:00 to Tuesday at 16:00, when Stage 2 load shedding would be implemented.

Claim 4: The most "successful shutdown in history"

Speaking in Pretoria, Malema described Monday's event as "the most successful shutdown ever in the history of struggle in South Africa".

"Today, there is no big mall or small mall, no factory, no school that is open today. All of them are closed," Malema said.

While no schools were open, that was always the plan. Government announced that 20 March would be a school holiday because the next day was a public holiday, and many people would want to make a long weekend of it.

It is patently untrue that "no mall" was open.

READ | Malema calls protest 'the most successful shutdown ever in the history of struggle in SA'

Apart from isolated incidents at retail venues, 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, found it was mostly "business as usual" on Monday, News24 Business reported.

The banking sector also didn't report any major disruptions.

While the EFF vowed ahead of the protest to ensure that South Africa's airports wouldn't operate on Monday, this also didn't happen.

While there were some disruptions on the roads, South Africa certainly wasn't brought to a standstill.

It was a highly debatable claim that the impact of Monday's "shutdown" could be regarded as more "successful" than many of the protest events during apartheid.

If the success of the "shutdown" was to be measured against its stated main objective – which was President Cyril Ramaphosa's resignation – it also appeared to be a failure.

At the time of writing, no announcement of Ramaphosa's resignation was forthcoming.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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