Bill Watch 39/2019 Parliamentary Legal Committee Adverse Report on Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill 29 July 2019 and anyone contravening an order will be liable to imprisonment for up to six months. The Committee pointed out that people in rural areas might not be able to learn about prohibition orders, not having access to newspapers or public buildings; it also considered that the right of appeal to the Minister, rather than to a court, went against the tenets of justice and violated section 69(3) of the Constitution which guarantees right of access to the courts for the resolution of disputes. The Committee’s view is right. There seems no justification for having the Minister decide appeals: a court will be more likely to give a fair and impartial decision than the Minister. A further point about the clause, which the Committee did not mention, is that it makes it a crime for a person to carry weapons in breach of an order, no matter what reason or excuse the person may have for carrying them and regardless of whether the person is brandishing them or, for example, carrying a just-purchased kitchen knife in a packet. The clause is far too widely phrased. Clauses 5 to 8 (gatherings in public places) These clauses require organisers of public gatherings to notify regulating authorities before the gatherings are held (five days’ notice in the case of public meetings, seven days in the case of demonstrations and processions). Organisers will also be obliged to negotiate with regulating authorities about arrangements for the gatherings and to comply with directives the regulating authorities may give them. If a regulating authority believes that a gathering will cause serious disruption, injuries or property damage the authority will be able to prohibit the gathering. An organiser who fails to give the requisite notice of a gathering will be guilty of a crime and liable to a year’s imprisonment. In the Committee’s view these clauses will unduly limit freedom of assembly and association guaranteed by section 58 of the Constitution and will debar citizens from holding spontaneous gatherings. The Committee also objected to clause 7 making it a crime, punishable by imprisonment, not to give notice of a gathering. The intention of this provision, the Committee said, was clearly to curtail freedom of expression and conscience. A fine would serve the required purpose. In support of its views the Committee referred to a decision of our Constitutional Court, DARE & Others v Saunyama & Others [link]. The Committee might have gone further if it had referred to a South African constitutional court judgment [link] which emphasised how important it is for citizens to have the right to demonstrate spontaneously and declared that failure to give notice of a demonstration could not be made a crime, no matter what penalty was prescribed. Clause 10 (Gatherings in vicinity of Parliament)

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