Durban city manager, Sbu Sithole, and the head of the city's land invasion unit, Harvey Mzimela, could face up to 30 days imprisonment following what has been labeled as “political evictions” in the Cato Crest area.
The two city bosses have until Thursday to state – in court – why such sanctions should not be imposed on them for being in contempt of a court order.
The city has denied it is in contempt of court.
Last week the eThekwini municipality carried on evictions in Cato Crest despite being interdicted by the court from carrying out any more evictions and demolishing shacks in Cato Crest.
Shackdwellers’movement, Abahlali BaseMjondolo, and 30 other applicants had gone to the Durban High Court on September 2 to challenge the evictions that were carried out in the area by the municipality, despite an August interdict.
An order was granted that the municipality cannot carry out evictions in the area without a court order.
This is after Abahlali claimed that about 15 shacks were demolished, eight of which belonged to people who had secured an interim order interdicting the municipality from demolishing their homes or evicting them.
On September 6 the court ordered that the evictions be explained by the city, or else they could face 30 days in jail.
Spokesman for the city, Thabo Mofokeng, said the municipality respected the court order, but denied that its actions had been in contempt of any previous court order.
“The court order protected 11 structures that had already been erected at the time the order was obtained.
“Some people continued to erect new shacks which were then demolished by the municipality.”
He said the The 11 structures protected by the court order had remained untouched, “so there was no defiance of the court order”.
In the contempt of court case the judge ordered that as an alternative to the 30 days (or an appropriate sentence), the city could comply with the original order, and in which case the imprisonment would be suspended for a year.
If the city failed to comply, the order stated, then the applicants could apply to have the jail term implemented.
Abahlali has accused the local ANC councillor and city bosses of being behind the evictions, which it said started because the people involved were Xhosas, before evolving into politically-motivated evictions. The movement claimed that the evictions had been discussed by the executive of the local ANC branch before they were carried out.
They have also claimed that some of those opposing the evictions were assaulted by the police. The station commander of the Cato Manor police station is one of the respondents in the case.
“They (police) brutally beat the people, shot them with rubber bullets and sprayed them with tear gas.
“These police also had dogs.
When people ran away the police even followed them even into their hiding (place) and continued to beat them there,” the movement said in a statement after the evictions last week.
Abahlali spokesman, Sbu Zikode, said their hope was now in the court:
“They went against a high court ruling and the constitution of this country. They are not using their brains, but only their powers.”