Equal Education (EE) has scheduled a march to take place in Khayelitsha on 21 March 2012, Human Rights Day. The march has been planned as the culmination of EE’s “10 Days of Action” campaign (#10DOA) for Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. During the 10 Days of Action, EE members have engaged in various activities, including cleaning up their schools and door-to-door visits in communities to raise awareness amongst the public about the need for adequate school infrastructure including functioning toilets, libraries, laboratories and computer centres. In rural areas thousands of schools lack even water, electricity and fencing.
Since 2009, EE has actively sought to engage government on the issue of minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure, the purpose of which was to ensure that the Minister of Basic Education followed through with her own commitments and deadlines to adopt the regulations (laws) for school infrastructure. EE has recently launched court action to compel the Minister of Basic Education to adopt the minimum norms and standards into law. Meanwhile, the campaign continues.
EE made an application, on 6 March 2012, in terms of the Regulation of Gatherings Act (the Act), to the City of Cape Town (the City) for permission to hold a march in Khayelitsha on Human Rights Day. The application was submitted well in advance of the requisite time frames and in accordance with all other requirements in terms of the Act.
On 14 March, an EE representative attended a meeting convened by the City which was also attended by representatives of the SAPS Public Order Unit and the Khayelitsha Metro Police. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss EE’s notice of intention to march and the intended route for the march.
The meeting broke down because Captain De Graaf of the SAPS asserted that he was unable to provide police for the march because he did not have the personnel available. However, the representative for the City stated that this was not a sufficient reason for the City to deny an application at which point Captain De Graaf walked out of the meeting followed by the other police officials.
The representative for the City indicated that other marches scheduled for 21 March had been granted permission, and conceded that it was entirely arbitrary to deny EE that same right. Finally, only 2 days before the planned march, EE was informed that it would not be granted permission to march.
The decision by to refuse EE permission to march in Khayelitsha, is unreasonable, arbitrary and is an infringement of the constitutional right to assembly. Section 17 of the Constitution provides that “everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to protests.”
Furthermore, Human Rights Day is historically significant as a day to commemorate the need to respect, protect and promote fundamental human rights enjoyed by all. Over the past two years, EE has organised peaceful marches of up to 20 000 people on Human Rights Day to raise issues relating to the right to education, and more specifically in relation to the need for national minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.
Consequently, EE will approach the Cape High Court tomorrow, on an urgent basis, for an order declaring the decision by the City as unconstitutional, to set aside the decision, and to grant permission for the planned march to go ahead. EE has further requested that the court compel the city to provide adequate police to facilitate the event.