01 September 2020 – Media Statement: LRC represents the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in discrimination matter against Labia Theatre

Media Statement

01 September 2020

LRC represents the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in discrimination matter against Labia Theatre

The Equality Court will hear the matter brought by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) against the Labia Theatre, this Thursday, following eight years of delays. The PSC, represented by the Legal Resource Centre, is a voluntary association that campaigns for the ‘liberation of Palestinian people … subject to illegal Israeli occupation’.

The matter before the Equality Court arises out of the conduct of the theatre and its management in February 2012. The Labia Theatre CC, an independent cinema operating since 1989, promotes itself as available to be hired by the members of the public for private screenings, which are based on lease agreements. The PSC hired the Labia to screen a film titled Roadmap to Apartheid (2012) by Eron Davidson and Ana Nogueira. When the manager of the Labia Theatre learned of the title and subject of the film he immediately cancelled the private screening. No reason was given directly to the PSC for this breach of the agreement. However, statements made by the manager of the Labia Theatre were published in the Press. Typical of these was a statement printed in The New Age on 13 April 2012 stating that “we were asked to release the film – which was pure propaganda – at the start of a week of Israel bashing and we do not get involved in politics”. It was also said that the decision was based purely on business considerations.

The film is a documentary that uses archive and newsreel material to make a comparison between Israel’s policies towards Palestine and South Africa’s Apartheid. The manager of the Labia Theatre has made clear his personal
hostility towards the film, despite having not seen it at the time he cancelled the screening. The manager, after researching the film, deemed it as “highly controversial”.

It should be emphasised that the documented analysis in the film reflects views widely held internationally by individuals, members of a state, organs of the United Nations, and also by many South Africans. The film makes explicit references to matters addressed by the International Court of Justice when it gave an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

It should be noted that during the course of this back-and-forth, the South African Human Rights Commission also instructed the Labia Theatre to screen the documentary within three months but the management still refused to do so.

In response to the conduct of the Labia Theatre management, the PSC, launched an application in the Equality Court in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (“Equality Act”) to declare the Labia’s conduct discriminatory.

The PSC contends that the refusal to abide by the agreement to screen Roadmap to Apartheid (2012) by the Labia amounts to unfair discrimination. The Constitution enshrines equality as both a value and a substantive right. The conduct by the Labia Theatre, according to the PSC, therefore falls short of the values and requirements as
found in section 9 of the Constitution.

Our clients take the view that the Bill of Rights in the Constitution is designed precisely to prevent discrimination against anyone on grounds which include race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. The Bill of Rights
further protects the freedom of expression of one’s conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.

The PSC has taken a stand in the matter to enforce the values contained within the Constitution of South Africa and compel the Labia Theatre to adhere thereto.

Issued by the Legal Resources Centre
Media Enquiries:
Tel: 068 584 2442 / Email: thabo@lrc.org.za