Fearing a repeat of 2021 riots, Durban prepares for EFF shutdown

Security companies, community policing forums and the police have drawn up contingency plans to stop looting and public violenc

Fearing a repeat of 2021 riots, Durban prepares for EFF shutdown

Community policing forums (CPFs) and neighbourhood watches in Durban are on full alert this weekend to try to prevent any repeat of the July 2021 riots and looting as a result of Monday’s shutdown, which has been called by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Although the EFF has insisted that its protests around the country will be peaceful, security companies, CPFs and the police have plans in place, should looting and public violence approach the devastating levels seen after the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.

Boni Mthiyane, chairperson of the eThekwini Neighbourhood Watch, which was set up in the Inanda, KwaMashu and Ntuzuma area after the 2021 riots, said they would be placing all their members on alert from Friday.

“We are concerned about the potential for looting on Monday. 

“We were formed after the devastation of the looting in 2021 and we don’t want to see looting incidents in our township again,” Mthiyane said. “We think that this protest may come with looting, so we have to be prepared.”

The organisation, which works with the metro police and South African Police Service, will send its members to shopping malls and in other strategic areas from Sunday.

“We understand that the party has a right to call political protests. That is their democratic right — as long as it’s peaceful and shops are not looted and people are not going to be put in danger,” Mthiyane said.

“We will place our members on alert from Friday and will be sending our members to areas where people are going to gather. We will also be surrounding the malls in Newlands, Inanda, KwaMashu and the rest of the [Inanda, KwaMashu and Ntuzuma] area.”

The neighbourhood watch now has branches at Umlazi and Lamontville, in the south of the city, which would also be out on Sunday night and on Monday.

The EFF have planned a national shutdown for Monday, 20 March.

“We are definitely going to be there to protect those areas.”

Calvin Thomas, of the Umbilo CPF, said they had contingency plans in place and would meet the police, business and other groupings over the weekend in preparation for Monday.

“The concern is always people looting. The march will take place peacefully but we are not sure what will happen after that,” said Thomas. “We will be placing our people on alert over the weekend, and for the greater part of next week, to make sure that nothing goes wrong.”

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said on Wednesday the city would “leave nothing to chance” and would implement a comprehensive security plan in conjunction with the police to “prevent the undermining of the authority of the state and will ensure that the public and the business community feel safe”.

Kaunda said the EFF — one of the ANC’s coalition partners, which had helped it keep control of the eThekwini metro — had assured the city leadership that the shutdown would be peaceful.

“While peaceful protests are allowed, we have a responsibility to protect those who are not part of this shutdown, and it is their right to be protected. Those protesting must do so within the ambit of the law. 

“Anyone undermining the authority of the state shall face the full might of the law and we will not relent in this regard,” said Kaunda.

The province’s premier, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, called on the security forces to maintain order and on protesters to “exercise maximum restraint” and to “avoid and prevent any unlawful behaviour”.

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