SERI has launched a case on behalf of the residents of 11 buildings in inner-city Johannesburg challenging the lawfulness and constitutionality of over 20 police raids of their homes conducted at the behest of the Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, between 30 June 2017 and 3 May 2018.
During the raids, which were jointly conducted by the South African Police Services (SAPS), the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), the Department of Home Affairs and the City of Johannesburg, officials forced the residents out of the buildings and onto the streets, sometimes in their nightdresses, where they were searched, finger-printed and commanded to produce copies of their identity documents, passports or asylum seekers’ permits. Anyone who was unable to produce their identity document was detained. Some South African citizens who could not produce their identity documents were arrested because, according to one official, they “looked too dark” to be South African. The majority of those that were arrested were never charged. They were released after a day or two at most.
The residents of each of the 11 buildings on behalf of which SERI acts are involved in court proceedings against the City of Johannesburg in terms of which the residents seek temporary emergency housing from the City (so that they will not be rendered homeless as a result of evictions). During the raids, residents have been told that they should “get out” of the building or face eviction. In some cases, those playing a leading role in obtaining legal representation to challenge evictions were targeted and arrested as “building hijackers”.
Nomzamo Zondo, SERI director of litigation, said: “The City of Johannesburg is using these police raids to harass, intimidate and threaten poor people who are challenging them. The raids are not meant to genuinely address any criminal activity. The actions of the City and the Police are unlawful and unconstitutional and the residents now seek to vindicate their rights in court.”