SERI represents the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in Mlungwana and Others v The State and Others.
The Special Rapporteur has been admitted as amicus curiae in an appeal against the judgment of a magistrates’ court. The matter arises as a result of a protest by members and supporters of the Social Justice Coalition outside the offices of the City of Cape Town (the City) Mayor, Ms Patricia de Lille, on 11 September 2013. Their grievances related to issues of poor sanitation for communities after lengthy engagements with the City.
The protesters, among other things, chained themselves to the railings at the City’s Civic Centre. Upon police intervention, 21 protesters were arrested and charged under section 12(1)(a) of the Regulation of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993 (“Gatherings Act”) for unlawfully and intentionally convening a gathering without providing the relevant municipal authority with any notice that the gathering would take place. In the alternative to the main charge, the accused were charged under section 12(1)(e) of the Gatherings Act for unlawfully and intentionally attending a gathering without notice and the required permission from the relevant authority.
The matter is currently before the Western Cape High Court. The question before the court is whether section 12(1)(a) is unconstitutional for criminalizing conveners of an assembly of over 15 people if prior notice was not provided.
In written submissions, SERI provides an international law perspective and urges the court to have regard to international law, standards and principles when considering the constitutionality of section 12(1)(a). SERI argues that holding organisers criminally liable for not providing notification or an inadequate notification is a restriction to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, which then must conform to international law, standards and principles.