16 February, 2015
The Freedom of Expression Institute unequivocally condemns the use of a scrambling device at the State of the Nation speech in Parliament last week. We are of the view that it was a blatant violation of the spirit and letter of the Constitution, and a serious infringement of freedom of expression and right to information.
12 February 2015
On February 11, 2015 the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court convicted ten Social Justice Coalition (‘SJC’) activists of convening an illegal gathering. Another eleven activists charged with the same, were acquitted of all charges. The convicted activists have been given a minimum sentence and have been discharged with a warning. FXI condemns the conviction of the activists and is of the view that this comes as a bitter harmony to a long wait for justice, and does nothing to question the real issues involved.
In September 2013, twenty one SJC activists were arrested in Cape Town and charged variously with convening and attending an unlawful gathering. The activists were arrested after forming a human chain outside Mayor Patricia de Lille’s office, protesting the failure of the City of Cape Town and the Mayor, in developing and implementing a plan for sanitation and janitorial services in informal settlements.
While Magistrate Alta Fredericks, presiding over the matter has acknowledged that the protest by the activists was peaceful, disciplined and non-disruptive to the public, the conviction deepens the ambiguity in the law surrounding the right to peaceful assembly and protest.
The SJC has proclaimed that they will be taking the matter to the higher court, questioning the constitutionality of the Regulations of Gatherings Act, 1993. Further, they have indicated in their press statement that they will be taking the ten convictions on appeal and challenge the criminalization of gatherings. The FXI fully support this and will be considering joining in the matter.
Also in Johannesburg today a gathering by the African Dispora Forum took place under very tense conditions after the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) at the very last hour yesterday informed the convener of the fact that they could not protest in the form of a procession but that they are to gather in one vicinity for the duration of the gathering. The protest was organised to raise awareness around the need for tolerance and social cohesion against xenophobia.
Such a last minute adjustment by JMPD not only robs the planned protest of its desired impact but also leave very little time for any recourse. This however is an unfortunate occurrence within the JMPD, whereas the RGA specifically allows for calling of a section 4 meetings within 24hours of the notification of a planned process one is often called to such meetings a few days or the day before the planned protest. FXI considers this to be a blatant abuse of power that stifles the exercise of the Constitutional right to assemble and protest and believe that one measure that could curb such is the revision of the RGA and its procedures.
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