On Monday, 16 March 2020, the residents of 11 buildings in inner-city Johannesburg will challenge the lawfulness and constitutionality of over 20 police raids of their homes conducted between 30 June 2017 and 3 May 2018. The raids were conducted in terms of section 13 (7) of the South African Police Services (SAPS) Act while two of the raids were conducted without any legal authority. The residents contend that section 13 (7) of the SAPS Act is unconstitutional in that it unjustifiably infringes the right to privacy, contained in section 14 of the South African Constitution.
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. Inside the buildings, the police left the residents’ homes in disarray. They broke down doors and partitions, damaged furniture and even stole valuable items and small amounts of cash.
The residents of 10 of the 11 buildings are involved in court proceedings against the City of Johannesburg in which they 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. The raids have been used as a means to harass the residents and divert focus from the City’s obligations towards them.
The matter will be heard in front of the full bench of the High Court in Johannesburg.
Khululiwe Bhengu, SERI attorney representing the residents said: “These raids have clearly been used by officials as a way to unjustifiably violate the rights of the most vulnerable members of society. Affected residents are standing up for themselves and asking the court to put an end to this abuse.”