JOHANNESBURG - South
African campaigners on Tuesday welcomed a court ruling that will
make it harder for police to raid poor city dwellers' homes,
following recent protests over operations to enforce the
The Johannesburg High Court ruling, which effectively bans
police from raiding homes without a warrant, came after a series
of often-violent raids on "hijacked buildings" - properties
illegally seized by rogue landlords and rented to low-income
"This is a major step in the right direction in making sure
that all are equal before law, not just those living in affluent
suburbs," said Khululiwe Bhengu from the Socio-Economic Rights
Institute (SERI) of South Africa, a housing rights charity.
"This brings a sense of comfort to inner-city residents that
they are safe in their homes, especially during the lockdown,"
Bhengu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
Monday's ruling, which responded to a complaint by "hijacked
building" residents, declared unconstitutional a police law
allowing officers to conduct raids on private homes without a
prior court-issued warrant.
The court said police raids had been carried out under the
legislation "in a manner that was cruel, humiliating, degrading
In recent weeks, rights activists have accused police of
heavy-handed tactics in enforcing lockdown measures, mainly in
poor black residential areas where overcrowding have made
self-isolation and social distancing difficult to maintain.
Johannesburg's municipal government estimates that there are
more than 1,470 "hijacked" or "dark" buildings in the inner city
that have been illegally taken over and have a reputation for
high rates of crime and drug-dealing.
Lucky Sindane, a spokesman for the city's anti-fraud and
corruption unit in charge of investigating such properties, said
most of their inhabitants were simply low-paid workers seeking
SERI, which represented 3,000 residents living in 11
buildings, gathered testimonies about police raids during which
residents had their doors broken down, property damaged or
removed and were forced out onto the street at night.
Police spokesman Vish Naidoo said the police service is
"seriously considering opposing (the judgment)", but did not
comment on accusations of violence and heavy-handedness.