Equal Education threatens court action to allow march

Equal Education (EE) has threatened to approach the Western Cape High Court in an attempt to overturn the “unconstitutional” decision to deny the organisation permission to march through Khayelitsha on Human Rights Day.

The march was scheduled for Wednesday but EE said it had been informed two days before the event that its request had been denied even though it had submitted an application for permission to march in Cape Town well in advance.

The City of Cape Town cited a statement by the South African Police Services (SAPS) that said it only had enough personnel available to police the five other marches already approved for Wednesday.

But a few hours before EE planned to approach the court it received an invitation from the police to meet and address the problem “amicably”.

“If we can’t come to an agreement that matches the original plans to march tomorrow then the EE will definitely still approach the court at 3pm today,” EE convenor Doron Isaacs, told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday.

It would approach the court on an urgent basis, for an order declaring the decision by the city as unconstitutional, to set aside the decision, to grant permission for the planned march to go ahead, and to compel the city to provide adequate police to facilitate the event, Isaacs said.

“Of course we would also like to avoid this going to court so we are happy to meet with the police,” he said.

The decision to refuse EE permission to march is “unreasonable, arbitrary and is an infringement of the constitutional right to assembly” the EE said on Monday night.

“Section 17 of the Constitution provides that ‘everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to protests’.”

The march, which EE said would be supported by 5000 participants, would attempt to raise awareness about its campaign for minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.

The SAPS claimed that its Public Order Policing Unit only had 48 members available to police the more than 5000 participants in the approved five marches, happening at different but overlapping times on Wednesday in the city, as well as being responsible for the stabilising of service delivery protests that have erupted in Grabouw, Viliersdorp, Riviersonderend and Khayelitsha.

The City of Cape Town said approving the five marches is “indicative of the city’s support of the rights of the public to gather and march”.

“The City of Cape Town fully respects the rights of citizens to march and gather, but we are bound by regulation and the position of SAPS,” it told the M&G on Tuesday.

The application by EE and three other applicants was declined because SAPS, which is responsible for public order, was not able to provide assurances for the safety of participants and the public, the police said.

It added that it was investigating the possibility of reviewing this decision if SAPS got the opportunity to deploy more members to police the marches on Wednesday.

Two weeks ago EE launched a court case against Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga and the nine provincial ministers for education.

The group is attempting to force Motshekga to prescribe minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.

At present around 3600 schools operate without electricity, while 600 schools in KwaZulu-Natal have no toilets. EE argued that 92% of schools do not have proper libraries and 395 schools in the Eastern Cape operate in mud classrooms.

The court papers that EE filed are composed of two parts.

The first part refers to two schools in the Eastern Cape that “have to hold classes in mud classrooms or corrugated iron shacks”.

EE has applied for emergency relief to be provided to these schools to “remedy the crisis they are currently attempting to function under”.

The second part addresses the need for Motshekga to prescribe minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.

EE said it has not suggested what minimum norms and standards Motshekga should prescribe as “this is her prerogative”.

“All EE asks is that she sets a standard so that she can begin to hold provinces accountable, and so that communities will know what standards to expect so that they too can assist accountability.”

Victoria John

Victoria John

Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011. Read more from Victoria John

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