The streets surrounding Luthuli House on our own, as yet uncommercialised #BlackFriday revealed a defensive and increasingly militant ANC as elsewhere, South Africans gathered peacefully and stood united under civil society banners.
While tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of South Africans around the country marched against corruption and President Jacob Zuma, Luthuli House in downtown Joburg was surrounded by about 1500 defensive and angry ANC cadres.
At Beyers Naude Square, a block away from Luthuli House, the ANC held a rally to defend their president who has come under pressure from civil society to resign following his massive cabinet reshuffle which saw top performers such as finance minister Pravin Gordhan fired and failures such as social development minister Bathabile Dlamini kept in place. Beer and dagga were being consumed by some from 10am.
While knots of yellow and fatigue-clad ANC members, hemmed in by SA Police Service and Johannesburg Metro Police Division officers, toyi-toyied and postured aimlessly up and down the surrounding streets, a short walk away a tide of about 6 000 mostly blue-clad (and some wearing the EFF red) South Africans of all races gathered in support of the DA-led anti-Zuma gathering on Mary Fitzgerald Square.
Attempts by a contingent of ANC members to toyi-toyi their way to the DA gathering were halted by rubber bullets fired by police. Four ANC members were reported injured in the confrontation.
As attendees of the DA gathering were dispersing at midday, another attempt by a knot of about 75 ANC members to breach the police cordon was again met by rubber bullets, although no-one seemed to be harmed the second time around. However, a man wearing a DA shirt wandered too close to Beyers Naude square and was attacked by an ANC mob. Lying on the pavement and bleeding from the head, police worked hard to fend off ANC members baying for more blood, and he was ferried off in a police van. The extent of his injuries in not known but a report on Radio 702 stated it was “critical”.
Seemingly frustrated at the lack of a target, a group of ANC youth headed down Sauer Street to the Bree Street taxi rank, shouting they were targeting “Nigerian drug dealers”. Their breach of the grid-iron gates leading into the taxi rank mall was swiftly repelled by taxi bosses and a brief stand-off in which a few bricks and bottles were tossed, ended up with the ANC contingent heading back up Sauer Street as taxi bosses hurled insults at their retreating backs and drew their fingers across their throats.
A short while later, bolstered by reinforcements, ANC members again toyi-toyied to the taxi rank where the grid-iron gates were again shut against them. Two ANC women stood before the gates pleading with their comrades to desist. A paving stone from the ANC contingent sailed through the air, bouncing off the gate and hitting one of the ANC women on the hip. The arrival of shotgun-toting police saw the ANC group scatter.
The atmosphere on Sauer Street calmed down from about 1.30pm as stomachs, hungry from toyi-toying hither and thither around the block, demanded food.
As a group of about 50 MK Veterans, who seemed old enough to be the real deal, did a decrepit but dignified toyi-toyi around the block, the ANC members who had come to defend their leader, some of them stating they would do so to the death, began dispersing.