Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi on Sunday granted an interdict, restraining the local branch of the Civics organisation and leaders Prettyboy and Nicholas Selepe from marching and inciting members of the public to remove the municipality’s already installed smart meters.
They were ordered to make a public announcement through a local radio station and to place notices at the assembly points that the march will not proceed. The municipality was authorised to take any steps necessary to inform the public that they may not proceed with the protest march and to engage law enforcement agencies to help them stop the march.
The South African Civics Organisation has distanced itself from the protest march. Municipal manager Linda Tshabalala said in court papers the municipality had already spent millions of rands on the smart meters and will suffer tremendous financial prejudice if they were removed, as intended to be done by the civics organisation.
He said they did not have an objection to a peaceful and lawful gathering to express dissatisfaction with any of the municipality’s conduct, but their concern was that the stated purpose of the march was the immediate removal of the already installed smart meters.
“Even if the respondents and their members may not like or may be dissatisfied with the fact that the applicant has installed and continues to install smart meters for billing purposes, there is nothing in the law which entitles them to remove those smart meters. Such removal would be unlawful,” he said.
Tshabalala said a previous protest march in August turned violent and the municipal officers were burnt down. He expressed concern that about 4 000 participants were expected with only 300 marshals, which was not good enough to control and manage such a large crowd of angry protesters.
“There is every reason to believe that the protest march will turn violent and such violence is very likely to result in damage to the applicant’s premises,” he said.
Tshabalala said the municipality would employ its law enforcement agency together with the police to enforce the law, which would inevitably lead to confrontation between the groups, which could easily erupts and could lead to loss of life.