A higher court can now determine the constitutionality of the Gatherings Act.

The ‘SJC10’: Civil disobedience and challenging Apartheid laws

On 11 September 2013, SJC members and supporters staged a peaceful and organized act of civil disobedience outside the o ces of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, chaining themselves to the railings of the Civic Centre. This followed more than two years of attempted engagement with the Mayor that had increasingly been met with broken promises, hostility, and refusals.

21 activists were arrested and charged with contravening the Regulation of Gatherings Act (RGA). In February 2015, the 10 elected leaders who identi ed as the convenors of the protest were convicted; the other 11 were acquitted. We expected the convictions. When the trial began we admitted the facts and did not deny that the gathering took place, but argued that the RGA itself is unconstitutional and a remnant of Apartheid.

Leave to appeal was granted in July 2015 in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court. This means that a higher court can now determine the constitutionality of the Gatherings Act.

In her judgment Magistrate Fredericks explained that there is a reasonable prospect that a higher court may nd elements of the RGA unconstitutional. Our appeal application is being lodged at the Western Cape High Court in March 2016 following delays with ac cessing the court record.

We argue that Section 12(1))(a) of the RGA limits the right to freedom of assembly as guaranteed by the Constitution. It criminalises a gathering of more than 15 people just because no notice was given and is unconstitutional.

A number of civil society organisations with an interest in upholding the right to protest have expressed interest in being admitted as Amicus Curiae (friends of the court). The ‘SJC 10’ are represented by the Legal Resources Centre. The case will be heard in the Western Cape High Court in 2017.

Nolulama Jara, one of the convicted SJC leaders, tragically passed away in August 2015. We deeply mourn the loss of Nolulama and thank her and her family for all their courage. She remains on our appeal.

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