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City of Joburg organised protest levy ordered unconstitutional by High Court

File image of members of Right2Know when they participated in a planned march in Joburg. Picture: Dimpho Maja

File image of members of Right2Know when they participated in a planned march in Joburg. Picture: Dimpho Maja

Published Jun 14, 2022

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Durban — Civil society organisation Right 2 Know (R2K) said that it feels justice had prevailed and its hard work had paid off following a pivotal judgment and order made by the Joburg High Court when it came to payments for organised pickets and marches in the city.

R2K’s Gauteng Organiser Moeketsi Monaheng said, as an organisation, they were happy that the Judge ruled in their favour.

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The matter was brought before the court by R2K and the Gauteng Housing Crisis Committee, where they argued that having been told that should a R297 levy for a planned protest not be paid, the action would be deemed unlawful, and no law enforcement agents would be deployed for the protest. This was in October of 2020.

The organisation argued in court that this constitutes a blatant infringement on the right to protest.

The respondents in the matter are the City of Joburg and the Chief of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD).

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On Friday, Judge Victor J ruled in favour of R2K and ordered the levying of fees in terms of the City of Johannesburg Tariff Determination Policy for the holding of gatherings, assemblies, demonstrations, pickets and present petitions be declared unconstitutional.

A further order was that the City of Johannesburg pay costs to R2K.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1k9W-e6Vsz78C4VIkcP2_Gwl9ZctHiOF8/view

“We always knew that the Right to Protest is one right that needs to be protected. The state machinery will try all the ways to suppress people's voices. We worked hard trying to pull along other civil society organisations to push back and stop paying these fees, but finally, justice prevailed. We hope the city will do the right thing and remove these unconstitutional charges so that the people of Joburg can enjoy the hard-earned privilege of marching and protesting when their lives are under siege,” says Monaheng.

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In judgment, Victor J said that the right to protest is not a right that can be easily limited, and the manner in which local government regulates protests must ultimately be compatible with the Constitution.

“The right to protest is not conditional upon payment of any fee. Yet, in terms of the Policy, everyone is required to pay a sum of money in order to exercise their constitutionally protected right… Additionally, the Policy is in conflict with the Gatherings Act because it purports to authorise the levying of a fee not authorised by the Act. Yet, section 14 of the Gatherings Act provides that it prevails over any other law applicable. Thus, the Policy must be struck down for illegality to the extent that it applies to protests.”

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