Cape Town -
A Cape Town law firm has lodged an urgent court application to get back files and computers seized in a raid on its offices.
The matter could be heard in the Western Cape High Court as soon as Thursday.
The offices of Craig Smith and Associates in central Cape Town were raided late on Friday.
In an affidavit filed at court on Monday and which forms part of the application, immigration lawyer Craig Smith raised allegations of abuse of power and the reading of privileged client files.
The law firm is asking the court to declare two search warrants, dated July 18, unconstitutional and invalid, and the manner in which they were executed unconstitutional and unlawful.
It is seeking, among other things, the return of all the seized documents and objects.
According to the papers, the respondents – among them the minister of Home Affairs, the department’s director-general and two officials – are expected to file answering papers on Wednesday if they choose to oppose.
Smith said in his affidavit that he had for some time been a visible and vocal critic of the decision to bring the new immigration regulations into effect.
He had been involved in a number of high-profile cases that had gone to court.
This included the matter of the Johnson family, which made headlines.
The Danish wife of Brent Johnson had been declared an undesirable person when the family left Cape Town for a trip to Namibia.
The high court granted an interim order permitting her to enter and remain in the country subject to reasonable terms and conditions prescribed by Home Affairs.
Smith said the raid had begun before 5pm on Friday.
A group of uniformed people, whom he described as being “extremely aggressive”, had entered the premises.
A camera crew, journalists and photographers were also present.
The officials had acted in a “disdainful, smug manner”, and he had been threatened with arrest, Smith said.
He and others saw the officials reading the contents of files that were subject to attorney-client privilege.
The group had left just after 10pm.
“I have never been treated as badly as I was treated during this raid,” Smith said in the affidavit.
“The search was conducted in an abusive manner calculated to infringe upon the dignity of all who were the subject of it.
“I suspect it was designed to be a show of force to cow me into stopping my challenges against the department.
“It is an abuse of power that warrants (legal) costs on a punitive scale rather than the ordinary scale.”
A spokesman for the department did not provide comment by deadline on Monday.