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Right2Know pickets on N2 ahead of SONA

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Denied permission to demonstrate closer to parliament, the organisation relocates its protest

Photo of protesters on the N2 roadside
Several Right2Know members call for transparency in Parliament while picketing along the N2 near Bhunga Avenue this morning. Photo: Barbara Maregele
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Several motorists hooted in support of a small group of Right2Know members along the congested N2 highway this morning, holding up posters that read: ‘Open people’s Parliament’ and ‘SONA 4 who?’

The group, who were standing near the Bhunga Avenue bridge, had initially applied to picket on the John Oliver footbridge near the CBD, ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) at 7pm tonight.

Most of the dignitaries attending the event, including President Zuma, must pass under this bridge on their way to Parliament.

“We are a group of activists from different communities who are tired of the lack of transparency in parliament,” said Vainola Makan, Right2Know Western Cape organiser.

There will be three approved demonstrations in the city: the Democratic Alliance, the Ses’Khona People’s Rights Movement and the #ZumaMustFall movement.

Other groups and organisations like the Right2Know were not given permission to march or picket near the CBD.

Last year, the Right2Know campaign challenged municipalities that require groups to apply for permission to march or picket. Sections of the Regulation of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993 have already been challenged by various civil rights groups, including Equal Education, who held peaceful sleep-in pickets outside a government building in April last year.

Makan said that it was unconstitutional to prevent people from protesting.

According to a Right2Know statement, the nearest protest action will be held about 600 metres from Parliament, “far away from the red carpet where government ministers parade for the cameras”.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen the space for protest shrinking. We have also witnessed disturbing scenes where protesters are assaulted, arrested and charged criminally for practising their right to protest,” the organisation said.

Makan said the movement was calling for government to be transparent.

“We want an open parliament for communities where we know that the State of the Nation will also speak to the issues of the people.”

Makan said that they would continue their “Open People’s Parliament” campaign until the Minister of Finance’s budget speech later this month.

The group will return to picket at the Bhunga Avenue bridge between 3 and 5pm today.

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TOPICS:  Civil Society SONA

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