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(File, Jenni Evans/News24)

Charging people to protest doesn

The City of Johannesburg has denied that it is infringing on rights of marchers by charging them a fee to protest.

Supporters of the advocacy group Right2Know marched through the city on Friday, demanding that Mayor Herman Mashaba scrap the bill.

In its statement, the organisation said the Constitution gave people the right to protest, but that the City was forcing activists and communities to pay to do so.

“It starts with a R185-00 ‘planning cost’ to process your ‘notification’ of a protest. But, some organisations have even been asked to pay extra costs, to ‘hire’ the police and the vehicles that will be deployed at the march. At a mass march last year, it was reported that Saftu (SA Federation of Trade Unions) was charged over R10 000 for the police’s time,” read the statement. 

R2K said this was exploitation, whether it applied to poor communities or any other organisation wanting to exercise its right to protest.

“For years, R2K and allied organisations have refused to pay the fees and demanded that JMPD stop trying to charge it. The JMPD is using the public open spaces by-laws, which allows the City to charge fees relating to commercial and recreational events such as sports events, festivals and concerts – but not for protests which are constitutionally protected and governed by the Regulation of Gatherings Act. However, JMPD continues to request a fee from people exercising their right to protest.” 

JMPD spokesperson Tessa Adams said the fee was compulsory and was part of the municipality’s policies.

She said the fee was an administration fee which varied depending on the manpower needed for the protest.

“Before we charge, we look at the threats, and number of officers to be deployed. The fee is a tariff policy. We charge according to the tariff policy.

“Our charges vary according to which dates of the week, weekends and holidays. We give protesters a 90% discount after compiling our billing sheet,” she said.

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