Constitutional Court File picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Johannesburg - Rhodes University on Wednesday welcomed a Constitutional Court judgment dismissing a leave to appeal application lodged by three students affiliated with the Chapter 2.12 Movement. 

The students had approached the ConCourt following two unsuccessful attempts at the Grahamstown High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to appeal an interdict against them over their involvement in protests against gender-based violence last year. 

The protests led, in some instances, to unlawful conduct that included the kidnapping and assault of two male students who were suspected of rape or sexual assault, the disruption of classes at the University, damage to and destruction of University property, and the erection of barricades at the entrance to the university.

The university had sought an interim interdict against the students in the High Court, which was granted and made final by the court. 

All parties were also ordered to pay their own costs. 

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The three then applied for leave to appeal the ruling, which was rejected, with the high court then ruling that they pay the university's costs in the leave to appeal.  

They then approached the SCA, which also dismissed their application with costs. 

The ConCourt has now upheld the order by the high court in this regard and has found that the judgment of the lower court reflected “a detailed consideration of both the law… as well as the facts.”

“...the court considered the role played by each of the applicants in the events of April and May 2016 and, while it delineated their leadership role in the protests, it also carefully explored and dealt with the actual conduct that was attributable to each of them in relation to the protests,” Justice Jody Kollapen said in the judgment.

With regards to cost, the ConCourt ruled in the students' favour, ordering both parties to bear their own costs. 

The court took into account that while the high court had an option to consider an adverse cost order on the basis of its observation about “the shifting nature of the [applicants] evidence, which it regarded as disingenuous”, it did not do so.

Rhodes university's vice-Chancellor Dr. Sizwe Mabizela in a statement welcomed the judgment. 

“At Rhodes University, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions as afforded in sections 16 and 17 of the Constitution.

“Our institution will protect these rights for everyone. What we cannot protect and what the law does not protect, however, is unlawful conduct and the undermining of the rights and liberties of others. 

Mabizela added that the unfortunate part when "illegality is committed in the name of a necessary and important campaign against gender-based violence".