Mayco member for safety and security JP Smit. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Cape Town - Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith and city council director for safety and security Richard Bosman face charges of theft, malicious damage and illegal eviction.

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) opened the charges against the two at the Cape Town police station yesterday, over what it called illegal evictions in poor black communities.

SJC general secretary Axolile Notywala said their decision came after the City of Cape Town failed to respond to a number of attempts to engage regarding the matter.

“We wanted an explanation on how the process operates as shacks were demolished without a court interdict. In the past 10 months, Cape Town has seen more recorded evictions by the City of Cape Town than ever before.

“During these evictions, the city council has exploited the ambiguity of the law and occupiers’ lack of legal knowledge to perpetrate incredible violence by rendering poor, black people homeless. Someone should be held accountable,” Notywala said.

The anti-land invasion unit said it was sent by Bosman and Smith when the organisation asked who had instructed them, said Notywala.

“So they are responsible. In Island and Siyahlala informal settlements in Khayelitsha and Siyangena in Philippi, the city council’s law enforcement agents have illegally evicted residents by failing to produce an eviction order.

“They also caused malicious damage to property by demolishing homes with residents’ belongings still inside, and damaging walls, doors and locks to ascertain whether homes were occupied or not.

“The city council took residents’ building materials. As a result of the illegality of the eviction, the act of taking away residents’ building materials amounts to theft.

“The SJC was present at these evictions and has photographic and video evidence of all of this,” Notywala said.

“The city council’s conduct of demolishing and damaging the homes of the occupants and removing their material is illegal. It is against this background that the criminal charges should be considered.”

Island informal settlement resident Andiswa Kolanisi said: “The anti-land invasion unit was brutal with us. Many people were injured.

“The law enforcement also uses pepper spray on us, although there were children and elderly people.”

Police spokesperson André Traut said: “These case dockets will be transferred to Harare, Khayelitsha and Philippi police stations respectively for investigation.”

Smith said: “The city (council) did not evict anyone.

“It demolished incomplete and unoccupied illegal structures on its property, which threatened the rights of lawfully awaiting citizens on the housing list.

“This falls within the city (council’s) legal mandate.

“The city (council) acted in what is called in legal terms a ‘counter spoliation action’, in an attempt to protect its land from illegal invasion.

“A piece of private land was also affected, and in this instance, the SAPS did the demolishing, with (city council) officials observing. This occurred in March of 2018.”

He said his office did not receive email correspondence from the SJC as alleged.

Smith said a Mayco member and executive director cannot be charged in their personal capacities.

“We must defend city (council) land against illegal land invasions and through doing so defend the rights of those housing beneficiaries who would benefit from the housing developments there,” Smith said.

Cape Times