Challenge over Riot Damage Union Makes Constitutional Challenge to Gatherings Act

Cape Times (South Africa), May 27, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Challenge over Riot Damage Union Makes Constitutional Challenge to Gatherings Act


BYLINE: KAREN BREYTENBACH Justice Writer

THE SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) has launched a constitutional challenge to legislation that would have the organisation held responsible for violence and damage to property perpetrated by marchers on the streets of Cape Town in May, 2006.

A number of traders whose stalls were smashed have, with the help of the City of Cape Town's lawyers, sued Satawu for damages totalling R70 000.

The constitutional challenge was separated, to be dealt with before the trial.

Satawu asked Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe yesterday to declare that certain wording in section 11 of the Regulation of Gatherings Act, on it being "reasonably foreseeable" that a march would turn violent, would render that section inconsistent with section 17 of the constitution as it was inherently contradictory.

Eduard Fagan SC, for Satawu, said the Gatherings Act required that march organisers take all reasonable steps to ensure a peaceful gathering, including appointing 500 marshals, barricading roads and appealing to its members not to carry weapons or become violent.

Yet, by doing this it implied they foresaw possible violence, which meant the organisers could never escape being held strictly liable for riot damage, even if only 60 out of 20 000 people broke the rules.

This would mean all the peaceful protesters involved would lose their individual, constitutional right to assemble if only one person in a group of 15 000 carried a pocket knife and the authorities stopped the protest.

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Challenge over Riot Damage Union Makes Constitutional Challenge to Gatherings Act
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