Protests Across SA are Conveying a Clear Message: Absa Must Pay!
On Saturday 28 January 2017 the Black First Land First movement organised nationwide protests against Absa. According to demonstrators five branches shutdown as a result.
It all began in mid-January with the leaked Public Protector’s report. Absa was listed as a central collaborator in an apartheid-era bailout scheme in which the bank illegally received more than R1.125 billion from the Reserve Bank. The report recommended that Absa pay back R2.25 billion. Public discord started on Thursday when the ANC Youth League challenged Absa to ‘pay back what it owes’ and arranged mass phone calls to the bank’s call centre demanding to know when the money would be returned. On Saturday, Black First Land First joined the struggle.
Five Branches Closed
Pickets took place at 50 Absa branches, and were intentionally limited to 15 people each to avoid police involvement. Despite the small numbers, the Black First Land First protesters reported that they managed to close five of the branches they were protesting at – two Johannesburg branches, one Tshwane branch and another two in Polokwane.
Songezo Zibi, spokesperson for Absa, denied any misconduct and said that the bank is working with the office of the Public Protector. He said that the bank decided to allow most protests to continue, as the number of protesters and phone calls was relatively low, and customer services were not disrupted. According to Zibi around 10 branches were affected and some police interference was required. He also said that the bank intends to respond to the Public Protector’s report by the deadline, which is the end of February.
Andile Mngxitama, the leader of Black First Land First, said that they have no intention of stopping protests until the bank pays back what they owe. Mngxitama further claims that the evidence against Absa is overwhelming, and cannot be ignored. ANC Youth League also intend to continue their activity until the money is returned.
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