The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) has threatened the City of Cape Town with legal action should it not cease any future evictions during the national lockdown period.
This follows the harsh and humiliating eviction of Bulelani Qolani, by City law enforcement officers. The eviction was captured on video and law enforcement officers can be seen dragging the naked Bulelani out of his one-room shack during an eviction at eThembeni informal settlement in Khayelitsha last week.
The incident evoked nationwide outrage prompting Police Minister Bheki Cele to visit the area over the weekend.
LRC spokesperson Thabo Ramphobole said the City, as an organ of state, had shown a blatant disregard for human rights and had continuously undermined efforts of the national government to curb the spread of the virus.
“In light of the recent evictions in eThembeni, Cape Town, the LRC has been instructed by the Human Rights Commission, the Housing Assembly and Mr Bulelani Qolani to challenge the City of Cape Town’s eviction policy, human rights violations and the unlawful conduct of the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit (ALIU).”
“We have thus sent a letter to the City requesting an undertaking to halt all evictions within the Cape Town metropolitan area and should this undertaking not be forthcoming by Monday, July 6, 2020, we will approach the Western Cape High Court for urgent relief.”
“The LRC condemns the manner in which the City unlawfully evicted Mr Qolani from his home, stripping him of his right to dignity and rendering him homeless.”
“Since the country went into lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the City has escalated its anti-land invasion operations, in blatant disregard of the international and national moratorium on evictions, and persists in justifying its conduct by claiming that the structures it is demolishing are unoccupied. The video of Mr Qolani clearly portrays a different story,” Ramphobole said.
City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo had given confirmation that they had received the letter and were considering its contents.
Minister Cele condemned the actions by law enforcement, saying: “This is another level of brutality. One major problem about this law enforcement you just don’t know where next to go when these things happen. It is a structure that does not necessarily fall under protocols of the law of the constitution. There must be some form of accountability.”
“In February, I had a meeting with Safety and Security MEC JP Smith to deal with the structural issues of this Law Enforcement and there were things outstanding for them to show us that indeed we are dealing with a legal and legitimate structure and those things up to this point are not forthcoming.”
However, JP Smith reportedly said: “This is, of course, absolute rubbish as metro police are subject to Independent Police Investigative Department and Law Enforcement, and accountable to many more oversight mechanisms than the SAPS.”
“We have repeatedly asked to be included within the oversight of Ipid and it is only the failure of Minister Cele that has caused it not to be so by failing to amend the law we asked the national government to amend years ago.”