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Police role in CoCT evictions questioned in court case

The applicants are asking the court to interdict the city from demolishing structures without court oversight for the duration of the national state of disaster.

A screengrab from a video taken on 1 July 2020 in which Cape Town law enforcement officials evict a naked man from his Empolweni home in Khayelitsha.

CAPE TOWN - The role of police in the response to land occupation is under the spotlight in court where the City of Cape Town (CoCT) is defending its eviction policy.

The Western Cape High Court on Friday heard an application brought by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) following the forced removal of a Khayelitsha man while naked in July.

The applicants are asking the court to interdict the CoCT from demolishing structures without court oversight for the duration of the national state of disaster.

The applicants further requested the court to issue an interdict requiring the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure that city officials complied with the law when executing evictions.

Legal counsel for the SAPS, Renata Williams, questioned the reason why the police service had been included in this court application, saying that the mandate of the police was clearly laid out in the Constitution.

Advocate for the applicants, Norman Arendse, in his reply, said that there was evidence that showed the police service often acted to protect the anti-land invasion unit officials and not those being evicted.

Williams raised concerns around the evidence to back up these claims.

Arendse replied by saying that the police were present on numerous occasions at these operations where city officials acted unlawfully by using excessive force and failing to respect the dignity of residents.

The applicants claimed that the police did not intervene in these instances.

In court papers, the City of Cape Town pointed out that the SAPS was regularly present at operations against land occupations.

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