'Forgotten' waste pickers remain in jail
Justice Shabangu and George Mphotshe were arrested early in April, a few days after the lockdown regulations came into effect.
The pair are waste pickers who normally stay at Mushroomville, a piece of land in Lyttelton from where the owner wants to evict them.
While strict measures prevailed under level 5 of lockdown and only essential workers were allowed on the streets, the pair ventured outside of Mushroomville on April 14.
They were desperate to collect some waste to sell to buy food, but were arrested for contravening the lockdown regulations and taken to Sunnyside police station.
Without ever being taken to court, they ended up at the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre.
While their “petty crime” is punishable in terms of the lockdown regulations by paying an admission of guilt fine, the two remained behind bars for more than two months.
Neither their legal representative, Lawyers for Human Rights, nor their families may see them as the prison has forbidden visits due to Covid-19.
The wife of Shabangu, also a waste picker, will approach the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, today for the prison to immediately release her husband and Mphotshe.
In terms of the law, an arrested person has to be brought to court within 48 hours. But the pair have not seen the inside of a court since their arrest.
Mamosioua Kao said she had paid R710 into the account of an official who promised to then release the men. The impoverished Mushroomville community all contributed to this.
She issued a receipt of the money paid as part of her court papers, but to date the pair remain behind bars.
Kao said after the arrest of the men, her husband was able to phone her from Sunnyside police station. He told her the police arrested them for working under the lockdown regulations.
A few days later her husband phoned her from prison, using the phone of an official, and said if they paid R600 each, they would be released.
The community only managed to pay R710 into a bank account, but nothing came of their release.
A representative of a local NGO, and Lawyers for Human Rights, subsequently tried to see the pair at prison, but the prison authorities refused.
Neither Correctional Services nor Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola have yet filed a reply to the application.