By 12:00 on Monday, the Economic Freedom Fighters' (EFF's) shutdown had not developed into the mass action the party had punted, even though it pre-emptively described the shutdown as a success.
The protest action was characterised by small skirmishes, and in parts of the country, it was reported that demonstrators had used rocks and burning tyres to block roads.
Police, metro police officials and private security officials acted swiftly to clamp down on illegal action, stopping protesters dead in their tracks.
By Monday morning, at least 87 people had been arrested for public violence across the country in just over 12 hours.
According to national police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe, 41 people were arrested in Gauteng, 29 in the North West, and 15 in the Free State.
There were also arrests in Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.
Mathe said law enforcement officers would remain on high alert to maintain public order.
Despite the lukewarm turnout, the EFF claimed their campaign was a success.
The party said one of the major successes of the shutdown was reduced stages of loadshedding, even before it officially even began.
"It is because of the national shutdown that South Africa has moved from Stage 4 to Stage 1 over the past four days, and [loadshedding] was even suspended [on Sunday]," EFF spokesperson Leigh-Ann Mathys said in a statement on Monday.
But Eskom said in a statement of its own that due to a significantly lower-than-anticipated demand for electricity, loadshedding had been suspended at 11:00 on Monday to 16:00 on Tuesday, 21 March, when Stage 2 loadshedding would be implemented.
The "red berets" took to the streets in nationwide marches on Monday to protest against loadshedding and amplify their call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign.
Mathys said the marches were "proceeding successfully".
"The Economic Freedom Fighters is pleased that the ongoing national shutdown, which began at 12am on the 20th of March 2023 is proceeding successfully, peacefully and with the utmost discipline. This morning, activists came out in their numbers and registered their dissatisfaction against the incompetent government of Cyril Ramaphosa, in the face of intimidation and violence by police and military personnel," she said.
"Many activists who were violated or detained by police in the early hours of this morning have been released and are on the ground determined to exercise their constitutional right to protest. As things stand, it is not a normal day in South Africa. taxi ranks, malls, and intersections which would ordinarily be busy in the cities and townships, are empty."
According to Mathys, several shops, businesses, petrol stations, car dealerships and courts were not operating as a result of the shutdown.
"Buses and taxis are driving around the townships and cities empty because our people have heeded the call of the EFF to not allow the country to be business as usual, and [the] call for the resignation of Cyril Ramaphosa.
"The success of the national shutdown so far, proves that our people are sick and tired of load shedding, corruption, unemployment, crime, gender-based violence and a lack of service delivery. The economy has come to a standstill because they too are tired of Ramaphosa's lies."
In several major cities across the country, some business continued to trade. Others closed their doors over safety concerns.
Public transport services were readily available, but buses and taxis were not filled to capacity.
Highways and major routes were open.
Gauteng appeared to have the bulk of the protest action, with a few hundred protesters gathering at Church Square in Pretoria. A crowd of people clad in EFF T-shirts carried placards, sang struggle songs and gathered at Noord Taxi Rank in the Johannesburg CBD, where most shops were closed.
Putco temporarily suspended its services in the province after the bus was hijacked and other buses were stoned and damaged.
The EFF in the Western Cape said the police and security forces were shutting the province down on Monday - not them.
As he waited for the Cape Town march to start, regional chairperson Unathi Ntame said, "It seems the state itself has actually shut down the Western Cape."
A few hundred people also gathered in the Durban CBD at around 12:00, accompanied by a strong police presence.
In the Eastern Cape security was beefed up with armed soldiers in full combat gear standing guard at all three airports in the province, the provincial legislature, and harbours in coastal towns.
The EFF, however, remained resolute that the country was being brought to standstill.
"He (Ramaphosa) and the ANC said it is business as usual, yet businesses are closed, meaning workers and the people of South Africa refused to listen to the lies. It is now time to descend onto the streets and register our unhappiness and frustration against the regime of the day, through massive protests and demonstrations. The shutdown will continue until midnight," Mathys said.
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