ZumaMustFall march at Mandela Bridge ‘illegal’

“With the short notice the COJ got from UAC, the march application was not successful.”

The ZumaMustFall march planned to take place on Wednesday has been reported as illegal by the City of Johannesburg. However, Section 27 believe they have followed proper procedures for the march.

Application for the ‘No Reconciliation with Corruption’ march called by the Section 27’s Unite Against Corruption (UAC) campaign at Mandela Bridge between 10am till 12pm was declined by the City of Johannesburg (COJ), due to ‘safety’ among other reasons.

Speaking to The Citizen, COJ’s media relations deputy director, Nthatisi Modingoane, said that the COJ would like the public to understand that the bridge is not an events venue.

“The Mandela Bridge is meant for free flow of traffic and movement, from Braamfontein to the Johannesburg CBD.”

However, the bridge has been used for other events, including the 94.7 cyclist challenge and the Freedom Ride – which the City insisted were free-flow events and not a camping site.

The City of Johannesburg discourages gatherings or camps that take place on the Mandela Bridge, Modingoane said.

According to the COJ, there are resources needed for policing a march and with the short notice the COJ got from UAC, the march application was not successful.

Section 27’s Oya-Hazel Gumede reached The Citizen for comment, saying they gave COJ a notice prior to the march of “extraordinary” conditions. Gumede mentioned they will be appearing in court on Tuesday evening, to sort out the matter.

UAC has confirmed the gathering will take place at Mandela Bridge, due to the bridge’s significance. The gathering taking place at Mandela Bridge would also commemorate the anniversary of Madiba’s passing and therefore should be allowed to use the bridge, for its symbolic purpose.

According to Modingoane, UAC only requested to use the bridge on Monday, meanwhile there is a seven-day period before an application can be considered for any event/occasion that will take place through the Mandela Bridge, accompanied by application fee of R150.

UAC further said:

Section 4 of the Regulation of Gatherings Act No 205 of 1993 requires that seven days notice be provided. This provision is generally for marches, protests and gatherings that are held within the context of ordinary situations and circumstances;

The Act qualifies this requirement by providing that, if  notice cannot be given within the seven days, it must then be given “at the earliest opportunity”. The Act further provides the JMPD with the right to prohibit the gathering, if notice was given less than 48hours before the commencement of the gathering. UAC clearly noted the fact that we provided notice within the requisite 48 hours, and highlighted that we had therefore complied with the requirements of the Act.

The JMPD raised the issue of  the safety of citizens, and stated that engineers had raised concerns about the capacity that the bridge was able to hold in terms of human traffic. However,  they were unable to provide us with the engineering report to this effect, and conceded at the meeting that such a report did not exist;

In essence, they were effectively requiring and suggesting that we hold the gathering in another area, but we stressed the symbolic significance of the Nelson Mandela bridge: the values that Tata Mandela stood for, the fact that this is the second anniversary of his passing away, the fact that he is the archetypal symbol of all of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of a South Africa that is free from the deep scourge of  corruption, a South Africa that is fully  flourishing;

The UAC then made concessions, in the event that there are many people who arrive for the gathering that (1) overflow in human traffic be directed to Mary Fitzgerald Square or (2) that the people walk over the bridge, and that the gathering itself be  held at Mary Fitzgerald Square. The concession that we were nevertheless unwilling to make related to having a march that is not in any way connected to the Nelson Mandela Bridge, precisely because of the symbolic significance of the bridge;

The JMPD then informed us that they were not granting permission, and that they would in any event not have any officials there to maintain peace and order, as they have been provided with an instruction to be present in Pretoria, for the march which has not been provided with requisite permission, which is anticipated to be at the Union Buildings. The latter assertion is of course absurd, taking into consideration the fact that the

Tshwane metro police have the responsibility for that jurisdiction;

The JMPD therefore left the UAC with no other option but to take an urgent application to the Magistrates Court. To be concise, my closing words to them were as follows: “Gentlemen we have a nation to fix, and the civic responsibility to build it, so see you at court”.

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