The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has kicked off its second round of sittings on allegations of law enforcement brutality during land evictions in the Western Cape.
Commissioner Chris Nissen says they have received several complaints in the Southern Cape and Cape Town on allegations of excessive force being used by law enforcement agencies during removals and demolishing of shacks.
The first hearings were in Knysna earlier this year.
The SAHRC says land invaders complain of assault, being manhandled and insulted by law enforcement officers during evictions. They say their furniture gets broken.
Complaints came from communities in Khayelitsha, Mamre, Atlantis, and Mfuleni, among others.
The first witness, Taurique Jenkins of C9 Coalitions, has told the sitting of alleged aggression at the Strandfontein refugee camp. The camp was opened by the City of Cape Town as a response to COVID-19 to house homeless people.
Jenkins says the people at the camp were traumatised.
“When there were riots, they were actually met with law enforcement riot gear and they would come to the camp, and people were injured as a result. I would describe the camp as psychologically brutal, I would describe just the mere presence of that level of machinery and militarisation created a brutal psychological environment which of itself is excessive.”
Nissen says community engagements led by community leaders would have been preferred during these alleged confrontations. He says there are cases of lawful evictions when there’s a court order presented, but says the aim is to find a sustainable solution.
“We have then convened these hearings to listen to all parties, to say we’ve received these complaints, and instead of listening to every complaint, we say let’s put all parties together in terms of their allegations and briefings and they are telling us their side of their story.”
This week, the Commission will be listening to the complaints from individuals and organisations. They will be followed by government agencies including Ipid, the City of Cape Town’s law enforcement agencies, and the private securities who sometimes get called to effect evictions. A report will then be compiled with recommendations.