Human rights organisation, Section 27, believe the 94 health care workers convicted on charges of illegal gathering, are not criminals.
The organisation’s Mark Heywood hopes the criminal records of these workers will be removed, once the court states its judgment. He was speaking at the Free State High Court on Monday, whereby final arguments were presented on the interpretation and legality of the Regulation of Gatherings Act.
This follows health care workers holding a peaceful vigil, protesting over unfair dismissals and the state of health care in the province, which took place outside the Free State Health headquarters, Bophelo House. The 94 workers are appealing their conviction and sentence of three months’ imprisonment, or a R600 fine each, following their arrests in July 2014.
Addressing the workers, Heywood mentions that there was a lot of fear and an attempt to divide them when the case started. According to him, the judges understood the argument they have made since the beginning, that they have a right to protest peacefully.
Heywood says although court proceedings went very well, they will await the judgment.
“The judges constantly referred back to the question on how the matter can be a criminal offence, to just attend the demonstration even if there wasn’t a notice for the demonstration. They asked the counsel representing the state that they should show them, where in the Regulations of the Gathering Act, it says that act is an offence. The advocate couldn’t show them anywhere that is was an offence, I don’t think the counsel for the Minister of Police managed to save it in anyway as well.”
Heywood says as he sat in court, the proceedings made him believe in the country’s constitution and rule of law.