This issue of South African Crime Quarterly is a special issue focusing on protest. It is guest edited by Kelley Moult of the Centre for Law and Society at the University of Cape Town.
Articles in this edition illustrate the ways that academics, activists, lawyers and practitioners are engaging with questions of protest and response. Two articles address the law on protest. Chamberlain and Snyman survey the protest landscape through the lens of the public interest legal sector, and question, through the experience of Right2Protest, the ways in which court processes are being used as tools with which to quash protest activities. Omar uses the Social Justice Coalition’s challenge to the Regulation of Gatherings Act (RGA) to highlight the controversies around the Act’s regulatory provisions.
Two articles focus on protest related to the right to basic education. Ally argues that the current legal framework on protest fails to protect and enable children’s right to protest, and uses the case of Mlungwana and Others v State and Others to show how the criminalisation of peaceful protest not only violates the state’s responsibility but also fails to take into account the best interests of children. Focusing on the South African Schools Act, Skelton and Nsibirwa show tensions between the right to protest and to basic education. Problematizing the implementation if provisions that create criminal accountability in the context of protest (including parents’ decisions to keep children out of school), they argue that holding protesters accountable under criminal law may be desirable, but that the proposed amendments to the Schools Act do not resolve these practical tensions.
Mukumba and Abdullah use a series of Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) requests to municipalities to test how easily accessible information is on where and how to submit a notice of gathering, as required by the RGA. They show that information is scarce, and compliance uneven across the country, finding that this amounts to active resistance by government to enabling the right to protest.
Two research articles look at public opinion on protest. Roberts et al., examine views of police performance in dealing with protests, finding that this is negative on the whole, and that roughly a third of South Africans feel that the police are never justified in using force in these situations. Bohler-Muller et al., focus on patterns of support for different forms of protest action across various socio-demographic and geographic variables. Surprisingly, the authors find no considerable differences across age, gender, race and class in the public’s support for protest, although people are more likely to support protest if they think it will be successful.
The case note by Abdool Karim and Kruyer analyses Rhodes University v Student Representative Council of Rhodes University, and Bond reviews Jane Duncan’s The rise of the securocrats and Protest nation.