Let the people surf: acts of civil disobedience over weekend are justified

IT WAS NELSON MANDELA who deployed civil disobedience as a key factor in ending apartheid. His defiance campaign against unjust pass laws, segregation and separate development formed the basis for the new constitutional dispensation.

This weekend saw a mass Turn Up event on South Africa’s beaches, with citizens defying the President’s banning of beach activity including surfing.

Organisers have labeled the  lockdown regulations “draconian” and “ridiculous“. There is no scientific evidence that coronovirus is the result of actual ocean ‘waves’.

Reaction from mainstream political parties were scathing in drawing comparison between police reaction to service delivery and SASSA protests and the weekend’s events, in which police appeared to take a stand-back approach, while the opposition DA were more supportive.

The EFF were quick to point out that the majority of protesters were ‘white’ and bemoaned the fact that protests involving the party which is predominantly black, such as the recent Brackenfell High spectacle had been met with police brutality.

The party seems to forget an incident on Clifton Beach involving the slaughter of a sheep, in which the boot was on the other foot so to speak, when apposite statements regarding the breaking of City bylaws over the weekend were being made by the party.

The incidents may also recall the 1989 apartheid beach protests.

The ANC soon followed with its own equally loud missives, condemning the lack of police action, but forgetting South Africa is a liberal democracy enshrining political rights including the right to freedom of movement and peaceful assembly amongst other rights such as the right to health, environment, occupation and security of the person.

These are for the most part, all non-derogable political rights, like the right to protest in South Africa, rights upheld by a majority Constitutional Court decision and not subject to retroactive legislation.

In November 2018 the Constitutional Court affirmed the right to protest when it handed down a landmark judgment in Mlungwana and Others v S and Another. The court declared that Section 12(1)(a) of the Gatherings Act was invalid and unconstitutional ‘because it criminalises peaceful protesters who fail to notify the authorities of their intention to protest.’

The Pretoria high court recently declared the National State of Disaster’s level 4 and level 3 regulations “unconstitutional and invalid.”

This follows an application by the Liberty Fighters Network (LFN), a group that “consists of economically oppressed South Africans and lawful residents of all different groups,” according to its website.

Needless to say, surfers of all persuasions are still intent on breaking the unjust imposition of the anti-surfing prohibitions.