03 July 2020 – Media Statement: The LRC challenges the city of Cape Town’s evictions policies

Media Statement

03 July 2020

The LRC challenges the city of Cape Town’s evictions policies

The Legal Resources Centre has been instructed by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), 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 hold instructions from these two institutions, and from Mr. Qolani, to institute proceedings to challenge the eviction policies of the City of Cape Town. We have thus sent a letter to the City requesting an undertaking to halt all evictions within the City of Cape Town metropolitan area and should this undertaking not be forthcoming by Monday 6 July 2020, we will approach
the Western Cape High Court for urgent relief.

In a time of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and as the world puts measures in place to protect citizens from the devastating effects of the coronavirus, the City of Cape Town as an organ of state, has shown a flagrant disregard for human rights and has continuously undermined efforts of the national government to curb the spread of the virus,
while equally not protecting socio-economic rights. Since the commencement of the lockdown, the City has been relentless in conducting evictions and demolitions under the ALIU. This is despite the fact there are clear regulations that expressly prohibit evictions in a time of the global pandemic.

The brutal, reprehensible, and inhumane treatment of Mr. Qolani by the ALIU during an eviction operation this week, which was captured on video and has since gone viral on social media, is not an isolated incident. Since the country went into lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has escalated their anti-land invasion
operations, in blatant disregard of the international and national moratorium on evictions and persists in justifying their conduct by claiming that the structures they are demolishing are unoccupied. The video of Mr. Qolani clearly portrays a different story.

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. In relaying his story to us, our client said he felt humiliated and that he has nowhere to go. “They started manhandling me, sprayed me with pepper spray while I was still naked, and
forcefully removed me from my house. I fought off and managed to get back inside the house and they proceeded to demolish the house while I was inside getting clothed. I also suffered physical injuries from their use of force while removing me from my home,” he said.

In response to the SAHRC’s request for an explanation from the City, the City insinuates that our client deliberately took his clothes off as a “tactic”. This was confirmed in an interview on ENCA, by Mayor Dan Plato yesterday. The Mayor went further to say that our client did what he did to make him (the Mayor) “look bad”. This has been a typical response by the City, not just in this case but in other eviction matters. The City has always deflected responsibility for their conduct by shifting the blame to either the occupier of the informal structure, political conspiracies or people with conflicting political agendas. Their accusation leveled against our client that he
deliberately stripped as a tactic to make the Mayor “look bad” is deplorable.

We believe that the conduct of law enforcement officers in the eviction of Mr. Qolani amounts to “torture, and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” as defined in the Prevention and Combatting of Torture of Persons Act of 2013 (“the Anti- Torture Act”) and that the perpetrators of this conduct, including all those responsible for the decision
to carry out this operation should be, accordingly, charged under this Act. Mr. Qolani has therefore laid criminal charges against members of the ALIU and all relevant City officials who are responsible for ordering his eviction. Based on the evidence against the City officials, this does not preclude the NPA from proceeding on other charges
such as violation of the Disaster Management regulations (prohibition of evictions), malicious injury to property, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and crimen injuria. The South African Police Services intend to present these charges on the arrest. We have been advised by SAPS that they have already started gathering statements
from witnesses and once all in is in order, they will proceed with arrests. The matter will be handled by Investigating Officers of the SAPS Provincial Office. SAPS has also offered Mr. Qolani counseling for his ordeal. We commend their swift action on this matter. We will closely monitor their investigation, which will hopefully lead to the arrest
and prosecution of all public officials responsible or complicit in the violation of Mr. Qolani’s rights.

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