Satawu liable for riot damages

2012-06-13 14:18

Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court has upheld a judgment that holds trade union Satawu liable for a riot damage claim.

The court ruled on Wednesday the South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) was responsible for damages caused during a march in Cape Town in May 2006.

It found that the Regulation of Gatherings Act afforded victims effective recourse when a gathering became destructive and resulted in injury, loss of property, or life.

"The organisations are intimately involved in the planning, supervision, and execution of the gathering, but the potential victims are not," Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said in the ruling.

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

'Soft landing'

He said Satawu had the opportunity of a "soft landing" if it could track down those responsible for the damage caused during the protest and recoup its loss from them.

The majority of the court also held that the defence provided for by the law is viable and that the limitation on the right to freedom of assembly in section 17 of the Constitution was reasonable and justifiable.

Judge Chris Jafta, in a concurring judgment, said Satawu's appeal should be dismissed since it failed to prove that the law limits the right to freedom of assembly.

Satawu took the matter to the court after the Western Cape High Court found the union liable for the damages.

Several car owners and traders who were affected brought the claim.


The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision.

The damages were awarded under a provision of the Act, which creates a statutory liability on the part of organisations under whose auspices a demonstration was held.

Satawu argued that the ruling and the wording of the Act would have a chilling effect on union members' rights to organise protests and demonstrations, as it would lead to financial ruin.

The respondents, including the then minister of safety and security, contended the provisions were consistent with the Constitution.
The City of Cape Town had joined as an intervening party and agreed with those sentiments.

The Freedom of Expression Institute sided with Satawu and were admitted as friends of the court.

  • pjcbs - 2012-06-13 14:29

    I believe that we all have the right to protest and march, but with self control and dicipline. With this ruling the union will have to take responsibility for the actions of their members, and stop behaving like spoiled brats. If your members are naughty in a march, you will get a financial hiding. Well done to the Con Court.

  • Henk - 2012-06-13 14:33


  • chris.gill.9849 - 2012-06-13 14:34

    Ha ha ha, take that you greedy bastards. Using workers to strike while you drive around in your mercs, the gravy train has come to a halt for you. You'll have to find a new way to exploit the working class.

      gerhard.muller.988 - 2012-06-13 15:17

      SATAWU currently has 165,200 members. So simply multiply how much they increase union member fees by that amount. Up fees by R10 per month and that's almost R20 million extra this year. DONE!!!

  • Paul - 2012-06-13 14:35

    Well done!!!!!!!!!!!

  • djim.bie - 2012-06-13 14:41

    as it would lead to financial ruin.......What about all you have ruined and gotten away with? Great ruling!!!

  • Freddie - 2012-06-13 14:42

    Finally!!! Some common sense prevails in this union oppressed, neo communist state. Hopefully the pendulum has started to swing back to more investor and tax payer friendly attitudes. ANC and Cosatu, are you paying attention?

  • Freddie - 2012-06-13 14:47

    "Satawu argued that the ruling and the wording of the Act would have a chilling effect on union members' rights to organise protests and demonstrations, as it would lead to financial ruin." Yes, if Cosatu affiliates were allowed to continued destroying jobs and property with impunity it would lead to financial ruin... of the country. About time they realised that actions have consequences.

  • terence.pattison - 2012-06-13 14:50

    Next time the Municipial "Workers" trash the Streets I hope the local Council`s have the will to sue for compensation with regards the clean up.

      Freddie - 2012-06-13 15:12

      As ratepayers we should insist they do.

      william.letsong.5 - 2012-06-13 16:47

      I'm sure the DA controlled municipals will sue them, the ANC run areas will be more reluctant.

      cyntay - 2012-06-13 17:39

      and the postal strike here in Springs they trashed the sorting office and damaged one of the sorting machines ( suspect that going to cost a lot to fix) and that was not the full time workers - it was the casual workers who work for a broker!!! 2 months without mail .. they just ended the strike this week hopefully we will start getting our mail..

  • bob.small.7547 - 2012-06-13 14:50

    "Satawu argued that the ruling and the wording of the Act would have a chilling effect on union members' rights to organise protests and demonstrations, as it would lead to financial ruin" Tough tit, what about the financial ruin to those innocents that suffered loss and had property destroyed by these hooligans!

  • Paulo - 2012-06-13 14:57

    JEES-2006 is a long time to wait for justice-will they charge interest>?

  • farmfreund - 2012-06-13 15:02

    Lekker let them pay ,

  • nigel.burgess.52 - 2012-06-13 15:04

    Excellent news. Protest in a civilised manner or pay for the damages. Justice at last.

  • Antipoaching - 2012-06-13 15:06

    Its called ACCOUNTABILITY...... if you cannot ensure a disciplined, law-abiding march/protest/strike then you need to pay for the damage/losses incurred by those who suffered damages as a result of said lack of discipline

  • Phillip - 2012-06-13 15:11

    Any organisation that thinks it has the right to proliferate violence is a backward organisation.

  • kseyffert - 2012-06-13 15:13

    "Satawu argued that the ruling and the wording of the Act would have a chilling effect on union members' rights to organise protests and demonstrations, as it would lead to financial ruin" How? If they behave themselves there will be NO claims and no payments. The public will then support you. Win win. It seems that the trade unions are not serious about their members at all.

  • Esther - 2012-06-13 15:21

    Oh,so it is OK to ruin individuals and businesses with your destructive behaviour, as long as YOU do not suffer any losses. Don't like the medicine you are dishing out,Satawu!

  • vernon.samuel.7 - 2012-06-13 15:22

    Excellent, the precedent has been set. Wonder whether Cosatu (in the form of Vavi) will call a unilateral meeting with the ANC to have this law repealed. After all, they consider the ANC to be above the judiciary. I cannot believe that SATAWU's defence is that this ruling will lead to union member's financial ruin!!! In other words, they are blatantly approving of their members causing mass damage, and expect the victims to bear the cost??? I am sorry, but I finally understand why union members behave in such an idiotic manner - their leaders are idiots.

  • Ryno - 2012-06-13 15:50

    why on earth did it take so long to come to this conclusion?

  • zaaristotle - 2012-06-13 16:02

    The right to protest does not equate to the right to destroy. I fully support the right to protest, either by way of legal strike, marching or other non-violent means. However when such actions turn violent, one has to question the objective. The victim of such destruction most probably has no influence on the grievance anyway, so what is the point. To my mind it is simply hooliganism propagated by the unions, and if they wish to indulge in this sport, they should pay for that indulgence.

  • tebogo.moche.3 - 2012-06-13 16:09

    This really sets a brilliant precedent. From now on, protesters will learn to behave responsibly! Unions, you have been warned!

  • gys.smit - 2012-06-13 16:12

    If you want to protest do it peacefully don't burn trucks and go crazy. Hope this knocks some sense in some of these UNION leaders

  • tshepo.g.kutumela - 2012-06-13 16:18

    ...y shd ppl who rnt involved wth the march hv 2 suffer loss or injury due 2 de barbaric behaviour exhibited by the marchers? de unions shd jst step-up & take responsibility 4 their members' behaviour, & not blame de so-called "third-hand"

  • watsongeorgejan - 2012-06-13 16:42

    You wonder to what lengths people will go to prove their stupidity, they even stole from, and trashed the stalls of vendors. By the way this are people that take home less than a quater of what they earn. And to think that the freedom of expression institute is siding with them...

  • william.letsong.5 - 2012-06-13 16:55

    Now they are going to think twice before striking over petty stuff. Its about time the damn hooligans are held responsible.

  • exile13 - 2012-06-13 16:58

    WOW! best news i've read in a while!

  • Andrew - 2012-06-13 17:04

    Firstly, I don't know why workers give money to unions. They do nothing for them other than arrange a march every once and a while to pretend they're doing something. Workers loose more than they gain. Secondly, I haven't seen any strike, protest or march that has actually benefitted anyone. Unions should think of being creative

  • antin.herinck - 2012-06-13 17:40

    Excellent. Now let the retarded simians go on strike over this verdict.

  • sandy.langenstrass - 2012-06-13 17:57

    Let's hope there are no appeals made by Satawu...just asking...cause in this country if you are found seems you appeal any way. But I'm rather chuffed that when these people behave like wild animals...that they begin to pay for the damages they cause.

      alansmartSnr - 2012-06-13 19:56

      @ sandra.. this was a ConCourt decision. There is no other appeal available. Actually the High Court made the decision and Cosatu took it to the ConCourt on appeal... and lost. Thank God for a sobre and impartial Constitutional Court.

      sandy.langenstrass - 2012-06-13 20:38

      alan...glad to hear it...I'm not to up on my court issues....thanks for informing me.

  • renier.lubbe.7 - 2012-06-13 18:36

    They will now have to learn how to demonstrate peacefully as was intended by the Constitution!

  • Charnelle - 2012-06-13 19:58

    GOOD! Hope this sets an example for the rest of the morons who think that a protest is there so that they can misbehave themselves!

  • Patsy - 2012-06-13 20:58

    About time too!! One can protest peacefully without trashing everything in sight. Well done Con Court!

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