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South Africa arrests 87 as opposition protests begin

South African police said Monday they have arrested 87 people across the country for offenses linked to an opposition protest.

Police Minister Bheki Cele told reporters in Johannesburg that the arrests were conducted in the Gauteng province, which includes the capital Pretoria and largest city Johannesburg.

Other arrests were also carried out in the North West, Free State, Mpumalanga, and the Eastern Cape provinces, he added.

South Africa’s third-largest opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), called for a national shut down on Monday, protesting against the rolling power cuts that are implemented almost daily, corruption, and unemployment, among other issues.

“On the 20th of March, we have to shut down this country to show the whole world that we are concerned about the state of affairs. We can’t fold our arms,” Julius Malema, the EFF head, said in a video message at the weekend.

Malema, who is leading the protest, is demanding that President Cyril Ramaphosa steps down because he is allegedly not running the country properly.

The party had requested non-essential workers not to report to work, and threatened to bring the country to a standstill, while commuter taxis and other passenger service vehicles are operating.

“The situation is under control, people are going to work. We have confiscated at least 24,300 tires that were strategically placed for acts of criminality on streets,’’ the police minister said.

Cele also said some of those arrested were found burning tires and stopping people from going about their normal businesses.

Ramaphosa warned on Thursday that the EFF’s planned protests were not a mere shutdown but an attempt to overthrow his government and said anarchy would not be tolerated.

At least 3,474 members of the South African National Defense Force have been deployed to support the police in preventing and combating crime and to preserve law and order.

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