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Rights group condemns Joburg CBD clean up process as inhumane

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa's Stuart Wilson says the authorities have no right to treat all illegal occupants as criminals.

FILE: Red Ants evict residents of a block of flats on Harrison Street in Jeppestown. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa has strongly criticised the City of Joburg’s push to clean up the CBD and reclaim illegally occupied buildings, labelling its raids as "inhumane" and unconstitutional.

Mayor Herman Mashaba, the JMPD, police and Home Affairs officials have been raiding buildings that the city says were "hijacked", and have now been earmarked for development.

Seri’s Stuart Wilson says the authorities have no right to treat all illegal occupants as criminals.

“That just wrong. It’s inhuman, it’s unlawful, it’s in violation of these people’s rights and the Constitution, and the raids themselves are questionable.

“I’d like to see on what basis the JMPD think they can break to a locked room in the city building.”

In the pitch dark of the Van Der Stel Mansions on Commissioner Street, the air smells strongly of urine and flies buzz from room to room.

Cleaning facilities and toilets have been ripped out to create more living space.

Philisiwe Mzila was born here nineteen years ago and she calls the conditions at the only home she’s ever known, inhumane.

“It’s such a problem, it’s not a healthy place. We actually live in a poverty-stricken place. It’s just a dumping site.”

Mzila leads Eyewitness News to the back of the building, where residents dump their buckets of waste, and dirty water.

“Because there are no toilets they use the buckets and throw them this side.”

When police raid this building, they use a bolt cutter to force their way into rooms, searching through residents’ belongings and lifting mattresses, on the hunt for illegal substances or weapons.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)

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