Thousands of people who were expected to march to African National Congress headquarters to demand that President Jacob Zuma and the party’s national executive committee step down were advised by the organisers to stay home on Monday due to safety concerns.
Organisers said threats had been made over the weekend and they feared there could be a “blood bath” if protesters made their way to Luthuli House in the Johannesburg CBD.
“As the weekend progressed, we realised that these threats were serious. On Sunday we held a meeting to assess our readiness and got more reports about these threats. We expected thousands to come and asked ourselves how we were going to control the chaos that could happen when you have MKMVA (the MK Veterans’ Association) and thousands others that the leader of the ANCYL said they were coming to defend Luthuli House,” said one of the organisers, Bonolo Ramokhele.
“We realised that there would be a possibility of a blood bath, and we thought it would not be good for us as ANC to fight each other… we decided to tell comrades to stay at home because we cannot put our brothers and sisters in the line of fire.”
Leaders of the ‘#OccupyLuthuliHouse’ movement would instead gather at nearby Beyers Naude Square and walk to Luthuli House to deliver a memorandum, he said.
The ANC has come under fire in recent times from many of its veterans who blame President Jacob Zuma and the ANC National Executive Committee for the weak economy, worsening unemployment rate especially among the youth and rampant corruption.
The governing party’s voter support dipped in the local government elections as opposition parties took over key metros such as Johannesburg, Tshwane, the Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela Bay and retained Cape Town.
There had been increasing calls from party stalwarts for Zuma to step down and that an early elective conference be held to elect a new national executive committee to lead the party to its next national elective conference in 2017, when Zuma’s term ends.
The MKMVA, the ANCYL and the ANCWL (ANC Women’s League) vowed to defend the party’s headquaters, with the ANCWL labeling the marchers as “cowards”.
Police and ANC security personnel, dressed in traditional camouflage uniform, were on high alert around the ANC offices on Monday. Barbed wire was off-loaded from police vehicles.
The organisers said they would not back down from their demands.
“We are aware that self-proclaimed defenders of Luthuli House have the aid of state machinery to cause disruptions. We fail to understand why there would be such antagonism to a cause legitimised by South Africans,” the group said in a statement early Monday.
“As organisers of the planned peaceful demonstration we will converge at Beyers Naude as planned and make way to Luthuli House to present our demands. Should we be attacked let it be, we will not retreat for ours is a just cause.”