Satawu: We're not to blame
THE South African Transport and Allied Workers Union says it cannot be held responsible for damage caused by its members during a strike in Cape Town five years ago.
Satawu is appealing an initial ruling by the Western Cape High Court and subsequently the Supreme Court of Appeal that it was liable for damages caused by its members during the strike.
Security guards caused havoc in the streets of Cape Town while marching during a wage increase dispute in 2006.
Satawu's legal counsel, Wim Trengrove, SC, argued that his clients did not object to being held liable for any damage caused to goods belonging to vendors on the day of the strike, provided the union was proven to have been "negligent" in organising the march.
He said this was not the case.
"The union is not here today to say they should not be blamed for any damage they were proven to be responsible for. What they object to is being made liable for damage even in the instance where they were not responsible," Trengrove said.
In 2006 Satawu was hauled before the high court by eight respondents who claimed their goods were damaged by the protesters. Two of the respondents, Jacqueline Garvis and Thuraya Naidoo - a street vendor and flower seller, respectively - sued the union after claiming to have suffered financial losses to the tune of R3805 and R6687.50 respectively.
Supported by then minister of safety and security Charles Nqakula, the vendors launched their court action in terms of the Regulation of Gatherings Act.
The act allows for riot damage to be claimed against an organisation that stages a gathering. But the organisation would escape liability if it proved it did not "commit or connive at the conduct causing the damage, the conduct in question does not fall within the objectives of the gathering or demonstration concerned, was not reasonably foreseeable and that the organiser took all reasonable steps within its power to prevent the conduct in question".
The Constitutional Court reserved judgment yesterday.