Cosatu warns over ruling on marches

2012-06-15 00:00

HOLDING unions liable for damage caused during marches may lead to marchers resorting to mob justice against vandals to protect a union’s good name.

So Cosatu’s KZN secretary Zet Luzipho in reaction to a Constitutional Court ruling that the law holding unions liable for damages is constitutional.

The labour federation applied to declare section 11 of the Regulations of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993 unconstitutional after the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a ruling by the Western Cape High Court that the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) was liable for damages caused during a march in Cape Town in 2006.

“When we hold a march, criminals will always look for an opportunity. If people see you do something unlawful, they might take things into their owns hands to protect the organisation,” he said.

Luzipo said unions would have to be stricter in enforcing good discipline when organising marches.

“If you call a strike or a march, you must ensure that it does not divert from its purpose.”

In the ruling, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said “organisations were intimately involved in the planning, supervision and the executions of the gathering, but the potential victims are not”.

“Because of this, the organisations would be in a better position than innocent victims to identify individuals or institutions which caused damage,” said Mogoeng.

The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said unions should be financially responsible for damage caused at protests.

“Sacci members have experienced the consequences of inappropriate behaviour during strike action … and as such … feel strongly that the right to protest must be balanced against responsible behaviour and property rights,” Sacci chief executive Neren Rau said in a statement.

“In the current economic circumstances, restoration of property damaged by protest action is a cost that neither the public nor private sector can afford.”

The United Association of SA said the ruling would ensure accountability amongst unions.

The ruling was also welcomed by Business Unity SA.

“This provides legal certainty to business in cases where public gatherings become destructive and result in injury, loss of property or life,” it said in a statement.

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