Two years later, after more than eight court appearances, the struggle of the 94 community health workers is continuing. This follows after their appeal against their conviction and sentence of three months’ imprisonment or a fine of R600 was once again postponed in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein this week. The workers were arrested during a peaceful vigil at Bophelo House – the provincial headquarters of the Free State Health Department in Bloemfontein – in June 2014. The workers demanded a meeting with Health MEC, Benny Malakoane, after they were unceremoniously dismissed in a circular issued by him. But instead the workers were arrested and charged with violating the Regulations of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993. Despite several calls and attempts to have the case dismissed, the workers were found guilty on 1 October 2015 and sentenced the next day. This week the workers returned to court to appeal their conviction and sentence. The case started off with technical arguments on whether both matters should be heard at the same time and whether Police Minister, Nkosinathi Nhleko, should be sited as first respondent or if it should be Justice Minister, Tshililo Masutha. In the end Judge President Mahube Molemela, sitting with Judge Lepono Lekale, made an order favouring the 94 applicants and postponing the case. She ordered the following:
1. The appeal and the conditional application for a declaratory order pertaining to the constitutional validity of Section (12)(1)(e) of Act 205 of 1993, are to be heard together.
2. The appeal and conditional application are both postponed to 8 August 2016.
3. The First Respondent (Police Minister) is granted leave to file a supplementary replying affidavit on or before 4 July 2016.
4. The Applicants are granted leave to file a supplementary replying affidavit on or before 11 July 2016.
5. The Applicants are granted leave to file supplementary heads of argument on or before 18 July 2016.
6. The First Respondent (Police Minister) is ordered to file supplementary head of arguments on constitutionality of Section (12)(1)(e) of Act 205 of 1993 on or before 25 July 2016.
7. The cost of the postponement is reserved for adjudication at a later stage.
Advocates Lungile Bomela and Gideon Mashamaite are representing Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko and Advocate Rudolf Mastenbroek is representing the 94 applicants.