Healthcare workers wait on court hearing

Photo: Moeketsi Mogotsi

The 94 Bophelo House Community Healthworkers who were arrested just over two years ago, after staging a night vigil outside the Free State Health headquarters, now wait on judgement from the Bloemfontein High Court on the legality of their gathering under the Regulation of Gatherings Act of 1993.

Final proceedings for the healthcare workers’ appeal of their conviction and sentence of three months’ imprisonment, or R600 fine each, were heard by a full bench.

Advocate Rudolf Mastenbroek, on behalf of the workers, argued that it shouldn’t have been considered a criminal act from the workers to have just attended the peaceful gathering.

He described the state’s case as an extortionist argument, saying the 94 healthcare workers were being punished, while the police failed to give them notice that they were contravening the act.

Karrisha Pillay, on behalf of Police Minister, Nathi Nhleko, argued that the punitive costs order requested should be deemed irrelevant to the case.

In his closing statements, Mastenbroek explained that the stakes are high in this case.

“It’s not just about a hundred odd people that gathered on a cold winters night two years ago,” he added.

He said he hopes the court considers the significance of today’s proceedings being on the eve of Women’s Day, which commemorates the thousands of women who put their bodies on the line to fight against the apartheid government’s pass laws.

Judgment is expected to be handed down within a few weeks.

Moeketsi Mogotsi/Courant News