SA: Statement by the Gauteng Right2Know Campaign, concerned by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department's demand of money for notification on public gatherings (27/11/2012)

27th November 2012

JMPD Now Demanding Money For

Merely Receiving Notification of Public Gatherings

Claims that this is a ‘new law’

 

On Tuesday, 20 November, the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) demanded the Right to Know (R2K) campaign pay a R130 fee, otherwise the JMPD refused to receive notice of R2K’s public gathering.

 

R2K will hold a candlelight vigil protesting the Secrecy Bill at Constitution Hill on 29 November and with over 15 persons expected at the vigil, R2K sought to deliver advance notice to the JMPD as required by the Regulation of Gatherings Act (RGA). However when the R2K representative arrived at the JMPD offices, there was a notice on the wall indicating that “as of 1st November” the JMPD will charge “R129.34” for processing any RGA notifications. When R2K asked the Officer-in–Charge (T. Sitofile), we were told that a “new law” had been passed to this effect. When the R2K representative requested proof of this new law/charge, the JMPD provided no additional information and continued demanding the R130 fee. When the R2K representative paid despite continued objections, the JMPD issued an official receipt for the fee. The Meadowlands branch of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee (SECC – which is part of the Right2Know Campaign) which was there at the same time was also required to pay the fee for notification of a planned public march.

 

R2K demands the JMPD publicly provide a copy of any new ‘law’ related to this fee. If indeed such a ‘law’ has been passed then there will be a public record of its passage by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Council. If there is such a law, then the Council alongside the JMPD must provide a public justification for such a ‘law’. If there is no such law, then the JMPD is guilty of lying and of commodifying a free public service for their own gain. Regardless, R2K sees no justification for such a ‘fee’ and demands its immediate termination and the provision of refunds of all such fees collected to date.

 

We reiterate that the Regulation of Gatherings Act is crystal clear on only requiring notification to the police, NOT an application for police permission to hold a public gathering. Further, there is nothing in the RGA that speaks to charging a fee for processing notifications. The JMPD demand for payment to merely receive this notice required by law is therefore as ludicrous as if the JMPD were to charge individuals a fee for every crime recorded at a police station.

 

R2K is moreover deeply concerned that this is not the first occasion where the JMPD has claimed unspecified to laws for limiting the free exercise of constitutional rights. The JMPD's present claim of a ‘new law’ sounds much like their unsubstantiated claim during the recent R2K picket at Luthuli House when they tried claiming that Johannesburg "bylaws" prohibited any and all pickets within 100 meters of Luthuli House. R2K refused to budge and the JMPD took no further action to remove the picketers.