PRESIDENCY SAYS “NO OBJECTION” TO EE MARCH
Today, Tuesday 16 March 2010, Equal Education (EE) filed an urgent application at the North Gauteng High Court.
We were forced to take this action for two reasons: Firstly, to assert out right to march to the Union Buildings on 26 March, and secondly because in a letter [see bottom] dated 24 November 2009, Mr Dumisani Mahlasela, Head: Public Participation and Public Relations, The Presidency, stated: “Mr Vusi Mavimbela, Director-General in The Presidency, has directed that all marches to the Union Buildings and the Presidency be suspended until further notice.”
There have been two responses from the Presidency:
Firstly, The Presidency has issued a media statement [see bottom] saying: “The Presidency wishes to place on record that it has not instituted any ban on marches to the Union Buildings.” We welcome this. However, it seems to directly contradict the letter written by Mr Mahlasela referred to above. Furthermore, the suggestion in the Presidency’s press statement that “people only to march to the Union Buildings as a last resort” is problematic. It is for the people to decide where, when and to whom to voice their daily challenges. We will write to the Presidency and ask for clarity on the status of the DG’s directive.
Secondly, The Presidency wrote a letter to EE today [see bottom] saying: “I am happy to inform you that The Presidency has no objection to your march scheduled for March 26 at the Lawns.” (The ‘Lawns’ refers to the gardens below the Union Buildings.) We also welcome this statement and thank the Presidency for it. It is clear that the Presidency wants to resolve the matter, as do we.
For the record, it must be pointed out that whether the Presidency objects to a march or not is irrelevant from a legal point of view. Permission to march is not the Presidency’s to give or withhold. The Director-General in the Presidency does not have general authority to permit or deny individual marches to the Union Buildings, nor to issue a directive generally suspending or limiting protest activity in regard to the Union Buildings or the Presidency. The Director-General only has authority, in terms of Section 7(2)(c) of the Regulation of Gatherings Act 205, of 1993, [see bottom] to restrict activity within the limited area surrounding the Union Buildings as specified in Schedule 2 of the Act. Unfortunately, the Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) has been under the false impression that they were bound to obey what they understood to be a general directive banning all marches to the Union Buildings.
EE will go ahead with the march on March 26 to the Union Buildings. We are working to finalise where and to whom the Memorandum will be handed over.
EE will immediately write to the Presidency welcoming the positive response and seeking clarity on some of the unresolved questions. If all questions are satisfactorily resolved, including a clear indication that no directive suspending or limiting marches to the Union Buildings exists, we will consider our rights to have been asserted and withdraw the court application. EE wants a positive relationship with government, and does not want to waste valuable time in needless court battles.
The most important thing is that the cause of Equal Education continues to gather support and the Campaign for School Libraries, demanding a National Policy on School Libraries, and an implementation plan, continues. This campaign will lay the foundation for many struggles for quality and equal education for all.