Land invaders run for cover as police use water cannons during running battles over land. FILE PHOTO: ANA

CAPE TOWN - The fact that people occupy land unlawfully does not mean that police officers and law enforcement can act in any way and act against the law, Parliament heard on Tuesday.

Social Justice Coalition (SJC) representative Axolile Notywala, a social movement with members in informal settlements across Cape Town, was briefing the portfolio committee on police and committee stakeholders during the preparatory budget hearing held in Parliament.

He accused the South African Police Service (SAPS) of often attending to evictions in huge numbers, which they do not mirror when crime is reported in informal settlements.

He added that police officers and state employees needed to be trained and given guidelines to understand that “no person may evict an unlawful occupier except on the authority of an order of a competent court as that is against the law in South Africa”.

He pointed out an incident which happened in the Ngquza Hill Municipality in the Eastern Cape where he stated that 36 homes were demolished in October 2016.

“On  October 18, 2016, the Grahamstown High Court offered the families urgent relief and a ruling that the municipality must construct emergency temporary habitable tents or similar dwellings that afford shelter, privacy, and amenities, for the 36 families, at the property at which their residences were demolished.

“The Municipality and others be interdicted and restrained from threatening, harassing the 36 families. The mayor and municipal manager had knowledge of the order but failed in their duties to ensure that the court order was justly executed,” he added.

According to Notywala, on April 13, 2018, the families witnessed justice in action when the mayor, Patrick Mdingi, was arrested for being in contempt of a court order, together with the municipal manager.

“The mayor refused to build emergency shelters for the community, whose homes were unlawfully demolished in October 2016 by the Inqguza Hill local municipality. The mayor has been committed to prison for a period of 30 days. Although the current whereabouts of the municipal manager are unknown, a warrant of his arrest has also been issued,” he said.

“People should know they have a right to take these people (Law Enforcement) to court when they unlawfully evict them from occupying the land.”

African News Agency/ANA