Led by their president, Julius Malema, ANCYL Freedom Fighters marched this week from Johannesburg to Pretoria to drop off a memorandum demanding the government create more jobs and help further the economic freedom of the masses – see September 22nd blog post. Thursday ended with a peaceful nighttime vigil and Friday’s march was “epic” according to local reporters.
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) insisted the ANCYL protest marchers “stay peaceful and not disrupt business in any way”. SACCI CEO Neren Rau said that SACCI “recognizes the ANCYL’s constitutional rights to freedom of political assembly and expression, but the exercise of these rights may not disturb the economic activities of the rest of South Africa”.
He added “SACCI recognizes the significant problems of youth unemployment and social inequalities in South Africa. These problems can only be solved through sober political dialogue and proper implementation of government policy”.
The government increased security for the marches – the largest anti-poverty protest since democracy came to South Africa in 1994. According to the government’s national planning commission, South Africa witnessed a rise in unemployment since the political transition in 1994. The national unemployment rate is 25.7 percent and according to a survey conducted by the South African Institute of Race Relations, youth unemployment is double that, at 51 percent.
A spokesman for South African President Jacob Zuma said he had granted permission for the march, provided the ANCYL took full responsibility for the actions of its participants. Analysts say the mass action by the freedom fighters could test the support base of ANCYL president Julius Malema. Malema says the youth mass action march is not meant to undermine the ANC, but not everyone agrees. See 2011 blog posts about Julius Malema – dated May 22, July 28, and September 7th.