Lwandle Inquiry: Police testimony criticised

Police maintain they did everything by the book while forcibly removing Nomzamo squatters.

FILE: Residents of an informal settlement in Strand have been forcibly removed from their homes in the Lwandle informal settlement. Picture: Lauren Isaacs/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The police commander who executed the Nomzamo evictions says they did not anticipate the violence which erupted.

Colonel Jimmy Lucas testified at the Lwandle Inquiry on Tuesday.

He maintains police did everything by the book when forcibly removing hundreds of illegal squatters off the Strand property.

Lucas' testimony was scrutinised and criticised at times by commissioners at the inquiry.

Leading the charge was an analyst who questioned whether the police upheld their duty to serve and protect.

"The court order is speaking the certain aspect of it. The police have the responsibility to protect, not only the sheriff, but also to protect the community itself."

Lucas conceded police were not expecting the kind of chaos police got during the evictions.

The inquiry will resume on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a Nomzamo councillor maintains people were not prepared for the evictions.

Councillor Mbuyiselo Matha says evictees were not informed that they were about to be booted from land owned by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).

Matha denies claims by Lucas that people were aware of the police's plan.

"In all the meetings with the stakeholders members of the community were not involved, but he's again saying members of the community knew that police were coming. But the question was how did they know if they weren't involved?"

Earlier this month, Nomzamo residents said the land owner should have been more clear that invasion of the property was illegal.

Residents have told the inquiry they knew they were occupying private land when they first settled there in December.

They said the first evictions in February came as no surprise, but people returned when they saw five shacks remained on the property.

Sanral then waited another four months before another round of evictions.

Nomzamo residents said this time it came unannounced and it violated their rights.

Sanral maintained it was granted a High Court order for the forced removals earlier this year.

The agency said the illegal squatters were timeously informed they needed to vacate the land meant for a project along the N2 highway.