South Africa: Water privatisation
Fifty two activists arrested under Apartheid law22 Mar 2004 11:40 GMT
water privatisation and the installation of pre-paid water meters. Fifty-two APF members were arrested, including 6 children, on charges of violating the Gatherings Act. This Act is a piece of law dating from the Apartheid era which gives police broad powers to ban or otherwise interfere with legitimate protest action. Increasing censorship and use of apartheid laws are being used to suppress dissent and social activism in South Africa according to the International Freedom Of Expression eXchange.
The Gatherings Act is a piece of law dating from the Apartheid era which gives police broad powers to ban or otherwise interfere with legitimate protest action. On Thursday, mere days before the action, the Johannesburg Metro Police denied permissions for the Coalition against Water Privatisation (the original organisers of the protest) to protest, on the grounds that the protest would be violent (no previous APF protest marches have been violent), would disrupt traffic (on a Sunday!) and would constitute a threat to law and order. The Coalition, with the assistance of one of its member organisations - The Freedom of Expression Institute - immediately drew-up appeal papers to get the ban overturned in court within the 24 hour 'window' allowed. However, in an unprecedented move, the Sheriff of the Court (who is designated as the formal 'server' of such papers) refused to carry out the expressed mandate of that office to serve such papers. When the Coalition's lawyers finally managed to secure a court hearing late on Friday, the magistrate dismissed the appeal on a technicality.
Breaking News All the comrades were released at 3am Monday morning, and they have to appear in court in Hillbrow Magistrates Court Tuesday. Supporters welcome (although we know tomorrow's appearance is only a formality and will simply result in a postponement)
For more background on water privatisation in South Africa: