Right2Know may picket outside arms commission, court rules

2014-06-12 11:49

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted the Right2Know Campaign permission to picket at the Sammy Marks Square in central Pretoria, where the Seriti arms inquiry is being held.

Judge Andre de Vries granted the order today after hearing submissions from Lawyers for Human Rights attorney, acting for the Campaign, Patricia Erasmus and a lawyer for Tshwane.

The order states that the campaign is allowed to hold a gathering at the entrance to the square, on Helen Joseph Street.

The Tshwane metro police were restricted from dispersing, obstructing and interfering with the gathering.

The ruling also states that the municipal police were barred from “using weapons likely to cause serious bodily injury or death against the participants of the gathering”.

Erasmus had argued that the decision to stop the planned picket was a flagrant disregard for the right to protest.

“We did not want to come to court. This is a last resort. We tried to negotiate with the respondents [Tshwane], and asked if we could picket somewhere else if not at the commission,” said Erasmus.

“The issue of urgency has been occasioned by the respondents, by their unwillingness to negotiate.” She said the metro police were flouting the Gatherings Act.

The Campaign initially wanted to picket outside the commission when former president Thabo Mbeki testifies at the inquiry probing the controversial 1999 arms deal.

However, the Campaign will now picket today when former finance minister Trevor Manuel testifies at the inquiry.

Mbeki was supposed to testify this week but his mother died on Saturday. The Commission is expected to make an announcement on whether his testimony will be postponed.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in the multibillion-rand deal.

The government acquired, among other hardware, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the air force, and frigates and submarines for the navy.

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