South African activists laud ruling to protect poor residents from police raids

South African activists laud ruling to protect poor residents from police raids

JOHANNESBURG (SOUTH AFRICA) – South African campaigners on Tuesday hailed a court ruling that will put restrictions on police to raid poor city dwellers’ homes. Such a ruling comes after recent protests over operations to enforce the coronavirus lockdown.

The Johannesburg High Court ruling effectively bans police from raiding homes without a proper warrant, and was mooted after a series of-violent raids on “hijacked buildings” – properties illegally seized by a few rogue landlords and given to low-income tenants for rent.

Khululiwe Bhengu from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) of South Africa, which is a housing rights charity, said, “This is a major step in the right direction in making sure that all are equal before law, not just those living in affluent suburbs.”

“This brings a sense of comfort to inner-city residents that they are safe in their homes, especially during the lockdown,” Bhengu told.

Monday’s ruling, which was a response to a complaint by “hijacked building” residents, declared that it is completely unconstitutional police law, which permits officers to conduct raids on private homes without a prior court-issued warrant.

The court said police raids had been initiated out under the legislation “in a manner that was cruel, humiliating, degrading and invasive.”

In recent weeks, rights activists have accused police of exercising certain tactics for enforcing lockdown measures, mainly in poor black residential areas where overcrowding situation has made self-isolation and social distancing difficult to be maintained.

Johannesburg’s municipal government estimates that there are more than 1,470 “hijacked” or “dark” buildings in the inner city that have been illegally inhabited and are known for high rates of crime and drug-dealing.

Lucky Sindane, a spokesman for the city’s anti-fraud and corruption unit in charge of investigating such properties, said most of their inhabitants were simply workers thriving on meagre pay and were on the look out for affordable housing.

SERI, which represented 3,000 residents living in 11 buildings, collected personal accounts about police raids and residents recollected having the doors of their house broken, property damaged or removed and were forced out onto the street at late hours.

Police spokesman Vish Naidoo said the police service is “seriously considering opposing (the judgment)”, however, it did not comment on accusations of violence.

(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field.

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