We congratulate the Social Justice Coalition for scoring a victory for the right to protest. On Wednesday, 24 January 2017, the Western Cape High Court withdrew the criminal convictions of the ‘SJC 10’ protesters, who staged a peaceful protest outside the City of Cape Town in 2013. The court declared section 12(1)(a) of the Regulation of Gatherings Act unconstitutional: this is the provision that makes it a criminal offense to convene a gathering without giving notice to the authorities.
While this declaration will only have force once it is confirmed by the Constitutional Court, it is a major victory against the criminalisation of protests in South Africa. Although protest organisers would still be required to give notice before convening a gathering, the failure to do so would no longer be a criminal offense.
This is a victory worth celebrating.
However, there is urgent need for more reforms to protect the rights of protesters in South Africa. We need to undo the brutal policing tactics at protests and lack of accountability for SAPS officers who violate the right to protest. We need to address the intimidation and unlawful restrictions of protests that are happening at a municipal level. Most importantly, we need to dismantle the political climate of paranoia which views protesting individuals as a threat to society instead of ordinary people claiming their right to be heard.
- For further information, please see the SJC statement: www.sjc.org.za/sjc10_victory
- Protesters who face restrictions on their right to protest can call the toll-free Right2Protest hotline (0800 212 111), and consult the Right to Protest handbook