SA activists hail ruling to guard poor residents from police raids

South African campaigners on Tuesday welcomed a court docket ruling that may make it more durable for police to raid poor metropolis dwellers’ properties, following current protests over operations to implement the coronavirus lockdown.

The Johannesburg Excessive Courtroom ruling, which successfully bans police from raiding properties and not using a warrant, got here after a collection of often-violent raids on ‘hijacked buildings’ – properties illegally seized by rogue landlords and rented to low-income tenants.

“This can be a main step in the fitting path in ensuring that every one are equal earlier than regulation, not simply these dwelling in prosperous suburbs,” mentioned Khululiwe Bhengu from the Socio-Financial Rights Institute (Seri) of South Africa, a housing rights charity.

“This brings a way of consolation to inner-city residents that they’re secure of their properties, particularly through the lockdown,” Bhengu instructed the Thomson Reuters Basis by cellphone.

Monday’s ruling, which responded to a grievance by ‘hijacked constructing’ residents, declared unconstitutional a police regulation permitting officers to conduct raids on personal properties and not using a prior court-issued warrant.

The court docket mentioned police raids had been carried out beneath the laws “in a fashion that was merciless, humiliating, degrading and invasive”.

In current weeks, rights activists have accused police of heavy-handed techniques in implementing lockdown measures, primarily in poor black residential areas the place overcrowding has made self-isolation and social distancing tough to take care of.

Johannesburg’s municipal authorities estimates that there are greater than 1 470 ‘hijacked’ or ‘darkish’ buildings within the internal metropolis which were illegally taken over and have a popularity for prime charges of crime and drug-dealing.

Fortunate Sindane, a spokesman for town’s anti-fraud and corruption unit in command of investigating such properties, mentioned most of their inhabitants are merely low-paid employees searching for inexpensive housing.

Seri, which represented three 000 residents dwelling in 11 buildings, gathered testimonies about police raids throughout which residents had their doorways damaged down, property broken or eliminated and have been compelled out onto the road at evening.

Police spokesman Vish Naidoo mentioned the police service is “severely contemplating opposing [the judgment]”, however didn’t touch upon accusations of violence and heavy-handedness.