SJC LEADERS CONVICTED FOR PEACEFUL PROTEST
APPEAL TO CHALLENGE THE APARTHEID LAW THAT CRIMINALISES US
On 11 February 2015, 10 SJC leaders were convicted on the charge of convening an illegal gathering. Another 11 were acquitted of all charges.
This was the judgment at the Cape Town Magistrates Court in the case of 21 SJC activists arrested for a peaceful protest at the Mayor’s office in September 2013.
In her judgment, the Magistrate described the years of attempting to engage with the City of Cape Town on the sanitation crisis facing Cape Town’s informal settlements that led to the protest. She explained that the protest was peaceful, that no harm was caused, and that nobody resisted arrest. She spoke of the work that these 21 leaders have done in their communities in the daily struggle for the most basic of rights.
As we admitted that we convened the protest, we expected that the 10 would be convicted of the convening charge under the Gatherings Act. The 10 were cautioned and discharged. This sentence was the minimum sentence the court could have imposed.
The Magistrates Court does not have jurisdiction to hear the constitutional argument. The Gatherings Act is unconstitutional and criminalizes peaceful protest – especially for poor and working class communities struggling for dignity and equality.
The SJC will consequently be taking the convictions on appeal and challenge the law that criminalizes us. Exercising our rights is not a crime. Apartheid laws must change.
The SJC is represented in this case by the Legal Resources Centre. Our heads of argument can be found here.
For comment please contact:
074 417 8306
074 386 1584