Plenary Announced: A critical evaluation of the SATAWU judgment

PILG 2012 is delighted to announce that our plenary session will be a critical debate exploring a current public interest law case from the perspectives of a variety of affected and interested persons to explore the decision’s relevance to the public interest law community in South Africa. The Public Interest Law Gathering 2012 will address the decision handed down in the Constitutional Court in South African Transport and Allied Workers Union and Another v Garvas and Others (13 June 2012), and its meaning for the future of the right to protest.

The case concerns interpretations of the Regulations of Gatherings Act, 1993; the Act which gives expression to the right of freedom of assembly as contained in the Bill of Rights. Essentially, the judgment ruled that members of the public who suffer damages from protesters have the right to recover their losses from the ‘host’ of the protest, regardless of whether or not the damages were caused by members of the organisation.

Responses to the judgment have been mixed: several civil society groups have lamented the possible chilling effect it may have on the right to protest; but it has been welcomed by certain business interests such as the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Questions to be addressed in discussions will include:

  • Will businesses’ interests be better served by the ruling?
  • Will the general public’s interests be better served by the ruling?
  • What should the scope of responsibilities of an organiser of protests reasonably be?
  • Is democracy served by attempts to legally attenuate protest and its ‘language of disruption’?
  • Is this a reflection of conservative ideological attitudes to labour rights, or a practical response to South African realities?
  • What is the courts role in attempting to give meaning to such pieces of public interest law, given the principle of separation of powers?
  • Does this judgement reflect on political changes in the constitution of the bench at the most powerful court in South Africa?

The objective is to have a discursive panel that is vibrant, challenging and sets the tone for the two-day gathering.

We are very proud to announce our speakers as:

Justice Kriegler
Secretary General Zenzo Mahlangu of SATAWU
Professor Stu Woolman
Siphiwe Segodi of the Freedom of Expression Network

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