Five people who took part in the #BlackMonday protests against farm murders this week have appeared in courts around the country, or have received summons to appear, on charges that they contravened the Regulation of Gatherings Act and the National Road Traffic Act.
Some protesters who took part in the action around the country – causing traffic chaos in many areas – raised the ire of their fellow citizens by waving the old South African flag and singing the apartheid-era national anthem.
Now police are pursuing them in terms of the acts. The gathering act states that people need to obtain permission from authorities to gather, and provides for prison sentences of up to a year for contraventions.
Those involved are being prosecuted after police allegedly received instructions from their bosses at national level to arrest those who participated in the protests.
Pieter Wagner, an estate agent and a member of the Bela-Bela and Modimolle policing forum, was called in on Wednesday because of his alleged participation in an unlawful gathering and for allegedly obstructing traffic.
Wagner told City Press’ sister publication Rapport that, on Monday at about 7am, he joined a large group of people, together with his wife and daughter, near the Settlers offramp between Bela-Bela and Pretoria for a prayer meeting.
At about 12:00, there was a similar prayer meeting at the Spar store across from his office, which he also attended.
That’s why Wagner was shocked when a constable walked into his office late the next day, to come and “fetch him”.
Wagner said the constable did not arrest him, but wanted him to go and see a senior detective because he had allegedly obstructed traffic.
“I didn’t even drive in the convoy with the other people,” said Wagner.
He went to the police station with AfriForum lawyer Louis Taljaard the next day and was to appear in court on Thursday.
Wagner said he was told in court that he was “excused”, and would only need to return if necessary. The case against Wagner was postponed indefinitely.
James van den Bergh from Polokwane in Limpopo was part of a convoy in which he said all drivers travelled on the left of the yellow line on the N1 highway and stopped to pray on the side of the road without blocking traffic.
“I was called on Tuesday to go to the police station for my involvement in an illegal gathering,” he said.
“I also went to court, but even the state prosecutor admitted they could not prosecute me. The case was withdrawn unconditionally.”
Marcelle Maritz, leader of the Freedom Front Plus in Limpopo, said she joined a large group of people who spontaneously gathered in a parking lot in Mokopane on Monday to pray.
After that, she and group of people gathered outside the town next to the main road to pray and sing gospel songs.
“The police phoned me the next day to make a statement about my involvement with the obstruction of traffic and illegal gatherings,” Maritz said.
She is waiting to hear when she must appear in court.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald criticised the police’s conduct and accused them of double standards.
“We used our right to freedom of expression to protest against the murder of our kin, family and workers, but now the state is even using old apartheid legislation to intimidate people,” he said.
“On a weekly basis, roads are being blocked during disorderly service delivery protests and by other groups such as taxi unions, municipal workers and students … But when white people peacefully protest for legitimate reasons, they get arrested,” Groenewald said.