File photo: SAPS (Twitter)
Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) intend on bringing an urgent court order to prevent the Dawid Kruiper Municipality from “unlawfully evicting” more than a dozen foreign nationals, who fled from Kathu after becoming the victims of xenophobic attacks.

LHR representatives said on Wednesday that the organisation is “gravely concerned” about the Dawid Kruiper Municipality’s intention to “illegally evict” 16 Congolese and Burundian foreign nationals from their current place of safety, a shelter that the municipality had provided for them.

“The 16 foreign nationals were victims of xenophobic attacks that occurred in Mapoteng, Kathu and resulted in them fleeing to Upington as they feared for their lives.

As a result of the violent attacks they lost their respective properties and places of business. They are currently without family or any financial means to assist them in their situation,” LHR spokesperson, Carol Mohlala, said.

Mohlala added that earlier this week, LHR, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Speaker of the Dawid Kruiper Municipality, Michael Segede, had convened a meeting.

“During the meeting, the Speaker categorically mentioned that they would, undeniably unlawfully, evict the victims. It is also the municipality’s intention to transport the victims back to Kathu, even though it had been confirmed both by the mayor and acting municipal manager of Gamagara Municipality that it would not be in the victims’ best interests to return as their lives are still in threat in Kathu,” Mohlala said.

She further stated that LHR advised the Speaker and other municipal officials of the unlawfulness of their intended conduct and that by doing so it would contravene various legislations - including the Disaster Management Act in their failure to manage the situation; the Housing Code, with regard to matters of emergency housing; and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act, in intending to unlawfully evict them.

LHR indicated that it intended to “urgently approach a court of law” to prevent the eviction of the 16 vulnerable victims.

Dawid Kruiper Municipality spokesperson, Patrick Williams, responded by saying that the municipality had accommodated the foreign nationals in a community hall for more than two weeks.

“As you are aware, community halls are used for different functions and we could thus only accommodate them temporarily. We are not insensitive to the plight of the foreign nationals, but the halls are booked in advance. We therefore call on other institutions of the government to also lend a hand and assist the foreign nationals as this needs a multi-pronged approach,” Williams said

Police spokesperson, Captain Sergio Kock, added yesterday that the situation in Kathu was currently “calm” following an incident where “an altercation” between two community groups took place.

He added that police were monitoring the situation.