Riot damage case goes to highest court

2012-02-09 07:24

The Constitutional Court is hearing an application today by a trade union on liability for damages caused during public protests.

SA Transport and Allied Worker’s Union is challenging a recent court ruling that held it responsible for damages caused during a march in Cape Town.
Satawu has contended that parts of current legislation on the matter were unconstitutional.

The Cape High Court earlier found that Satawu was liable for damage done during a march in Cape Town.

In that application, the eight respondents whose property was damaged in the Satawu march and the minister of safety and security, the ninth respondent, contended that existing laws on the matter were consistent with the Constitution.

This was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The Constitutional Court is expected to look at the wording of the law around the freedom of assembly.

The union, which is being supported by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), feels the legislation imposes undue responsibility on the organisers of a gathering.

It holds that this is undemocratic in that it limits protest – which is often the only way people can make their voices heard.
It argues that organisers will be too afraid to organise a gathering for fear of consequences over which they have no control; that often social protest, by its nature, is fraught and explosive.

The City of Cape Town has been joined as an intervening party. It supports the eight respondents, who include street vendors, shop owners and car owners.

The Freedom of Expression Institute has been admitted as a friend of the court.

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