A legal analysis in context: The Regulation of Gatherings Act – a hindrance to the right to protest?
South Africa has seen a groundswell of protests in the past few years. The number of arrests during protest action has likewise increased. In June 2017 the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) challenged the constitutionality of the Regulation of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993 in the Western Cape High Court. This was an appeal from the magistrates’ court in which 21 members of the SJC were convicted of contravening the Regulation of Gatherings Act for failing to provide notice. This is the first court challenge to the constitutionality of the Regulation of Gatherings Act. Although the challenge was brought on restricted grounds, it highlights the Regulation of Gatherings Act as a sharp point of controversy. This article will consider the regulatory provisions and the extent to which they restrict the constitutional right to protest, particularly in light of the important role played by protest in South Africa’s constitutional democracy.