South Africa 12.2.2015 01:43 pm

SJC to appeal protest convictions

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) will appeal the conviction of 10 of its members for convening an illegal gathering after attending a peaceful protest about sanitation, it said on Thursday.

The 10 were found guilty by the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday and were cautioned and discharged, general secretary Phumeza Mlungwana said in a statement.

“Since they are now convicted under the Gatherings Act, all the 10 activists have criminal records,” she said.

“We feel that this is unconstitutional because exercising our constitutional right to protest is not a crime.”

Another 11 were acquitted.

The SJC, which the Legal Resources Centre represented in the case, intended appealing against the constitutionality of the Regulation of Gatherings Act.

“… We note that the magistrate’s court cannot rule on constitutional matters, but a challenge of the law is possible via an appeal to the Cape High Court,” said Mlungwana.

“If successful, the appeal would see the high court agree on the unconstitutionality of the law — a decision that would finally have to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court.”

At the start of the trial in July, the 21 members of the SJC admitted to convening and attending a gathering at the Cape Town civic centre in September 2013, but pleaded not guilty on the basis that their actions were not criminal.

They had wanted to speak to mayor Patricia de Lille in person about their frustration at the city’s perceived inaction over proper sanitation in informal settlements.

 

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