Alexandra township in Johannesburg was plunged into chaos on Friday afternoon as members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) attempted to protest at the Pan Africa mall. However, the mall decided to close down, prompting the arrival of riot police and private security.
The EFF had notified the mall management of its intention to protest against what it called “the exploitation of black workers” by Pan Africa mall. The party had claimed that the mall was paying its workers below the minimum wage and engaging in unfair labor practices.
However, when the EFF members arrived at the mall, they found the gates locked and the mall closed. The party’s leadership accused the mall management of trying to stifle their right to protest.
“We notified the mall management of our intention to protest, but they chose to close the mall and deny us our right to express our grievances,” said EFF spokesperson, Vuyani Pambo.
Pambo also accused the mall of being anti-black and anti-worker. “This mall is owned by white capitalists who do not care about the plight of black workers. They are exploiting our people and enriching themselves at the expense of our people,” he said.
The situation quickly escalated as riot police and private security arrived on the scene. There were reports of tear gas and rubber bullets being fired as the police tried to disperse the crowd. Several people were injured in the ensuing chaos.
The EFF leadership condemned the police action, accusing them of using excessive force against peaceful protesters. “The police are supposed to protect us, not attack us. We were simply exercising our constitutional right to protest, but they responded with violence,” Pambo said.
The management of Pan Africa mall issued a statement later in the day, denying the allegations made by the EFF. The statement said that the mall paid its workers according to the legal minimum wage and complied with all labor laws.
“We refute the allegations made by the EFF. We are a responsible corporate citizen that values our workers and the communities we serve. We will continue to operate within the law and ensure that our workers are treated fairly,” the statement read.
The incident has reignited the debate around the right to protest and the role of private security in policing public spaces. The EFF has vowed to continue its campaign against the mall, saying that it will not be silenced by threats of violence.
“We will not be intimidated by the police or the mall management. We will continue to fight for the rights of our people and expose the exploitation of black workers,” Pambo said.
The situation in Alexandra remains tense, with reports of sporadic clashes between protesters and the police. The EFF has called for calm and urged its members to exercise restraint.
“We call on our members to remain peaceful and not to resort to violence. We are a peaceful organization that believes in the power of the people. We will continue to protest until justice is served,” Pambo said.