Hundreds arrested in South Africa’s anti-Ramaphosa protests

No fewer than 550 people were arrested during South Africa’s opposition rallies, security forces said on Tuesday, a day after marchers called for the departure of President Cyril Ramaphosa over the ailing economy and crippling energy crisis.

The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure said the arrests covered “public violence, intimidation, damage to critical infrastructure, theft and attempted looting”.

The left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the country’s third-largest party, had called for a “national shutdown,” sparking fears of a repeat of bloody clashes and looting just under two years ago.

But turnout was low and calls for strikes went unheeded as the government mobilised thousands of police, backed by troops, to stifle unrest.

About 5,000 people demonstrated outside Ramaphosa’s official residence in the capital Pretoria.

In other parts of the country, protesters gathered in groups varying in size from dozens to hundreds.

The protest call rekindled memories of clashes in July 2021 that saw the worst violence since the end of apartheid and advent of democracy in 1994.

At least 350 people were killed when protests sparked by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma spiralled into riots and looting.

Ramaphosa, a former union boss who turned business tycoon after apartheid and became president in 2018, had vowed to prevent “anarchy” at the latest protests.

His popularity ranking has slumped, battered by his handling of the economy, chronic electricity shortages and joblessness.

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