Activists accuse City leaders of being ‘racist’

Community activists, Loyiso Nkohla, ward councillor, Xolani Ngwekazi and ANC leader in the City of Cape Town chamber, Xolani Sotashe, address the marchers outside Harare police station.

Community activists, political
leaders and residents marched
from Makhaza to the Harare
police station on Thursday July 2
to protest the manner in which
Bulelani Qolani from eThembeni
informal settlement in Makhaza was
evicted from his shack while naked
by law enforcement officers. 

The protesters opened a case of
crimen injuria, assault, intimidation
and contravention of the Disaster
Management Act during the Covid19 pandemic. 
The video showing Mr Qolani
being handled by law enforcement
officers, who were evicting the
residents for occupying the vacant
land, went viral and received widespread criticism.
Various community activists and
political leaders have lambasted the
officers and described their actions
as senseless. 
The four law enforcement officers involved were subsequently suspended. 
Chairperson of Khayelitsha
Development Forum (KDF),
Ndithini Tyhido, said the forum was
disgusted at how the City of Cape
Town humiliated Mr Qolani. 
He said the issue for the forum
was not the eviction itself, because
that could be dealt with in a court of
law, he said what propelled them to
be part of the march was the manner
in which it was conducted. 
“Black culture is under attack
under the current leadership of the
City of Cape Town. Through the
march, we hope to instil a mindset
that we as black people in Cape
Town, are unwanted and we have
to fight to be here. 
This City is racist
and it is dehumanising a black person,” he said. 

Resident Phumlani Mkhokheli
said it was funny that some leaders
were only visiting the area after they
had been subjected to intimidation
by the City of Cape Town. 

Mr Mkhokheli said they might
not have otherwise set foot in the
area. 
He said he had been renting
for almost 10 years since he came
to Cape Town and now that he has
lost his job because of the Covid-19
lockdown he can’t afford to pay the
monthly rent. 
He said it does not make sense
that law enforcement would want
to evict them when they won a case
against the City in court from being
evicted. 
Provincial Human Rights Commissioner, Chris Nissen, said not all
law enforcement officers are bad but
what happened to Mr Qolani cannot
be excused and must be condemned
in the strongest terms. 
He welcomed the decision by the
City to suspend the officers involved
and said the commission would
investigate the matter. 
Mayor Dan Plato issued a statement on Thursday welcoming the
suspension of the four officers
involved. 
He said he wanted to make it
clear that this is not the type of conduct that the City tolerates. 
On Monday, the City issued a
statement saying independent investigators, Fairbridges Attorneys, has
started a probe into the circumstances surrounding the Empolweni
anti-land invasion operation.
“All video and photographic evidence have been handed over to
investigators, who will further conduct their own interviews. Video
footage filmed by law enforcement
officials contains new perspectives
not visible in the public viral video.
This includes footage showing Mr
Qolani clothed and standing outside
during the operation to remove five
illegal structures on Wednesday July
1. Mr Qolani looks directly into the
camera, as law enforcement officials
are heard dismantling illegal structures. This indicates Mr Qolani was
not bathing as claimed,” the City’s
statement said. 
“Footage further shows Mr Qolani
walking out of a structure unclothed.
He does this without prompting,
and without any law enforcement
official near him. Mr Qolani then
proceeds to pace up and down outside the structure naked, apparently
as a taunt, fully exposing himself to
onlookers. This occurred prior to
the incident with law enforcement
officials,” the statement read. 
“There is a video taken by a law
enforcement official, precisely so we
could have evidence in the case of
allegations.
“And Mr Qolani is visible, clothed,
standing outside during the operation to remove five illegal structures. The City really does not tolerate the loss of dignity that occurred. However, footage shows Mr Qolani
comes out of the structure naked
without any law enforcement official
near him. 
He does it independently, holding a piece of paper in his hand,”
said mayoral committee member for
safety and security, JP Smith briefing a virtual sitting of the National
Assembly’s Cooperative Governance
portfolio committee. 

The City said in terms of a High
Court order, they are permitted to
remove any new illegally erected
structures on the land in question.

This is besides 49 structures
which the court allowed to remain
on the land in Empolweni temporarily until the matter is heard
in full. 
Mr Qolani’s name is not
on the court’s list of permitted
structures, the City said. 
“No eviction has been conducted on this site, only anti-land
invasion operations. Mr Qolani
could not possibly have been living there as he claims, given that
law enforcement has been conducting near daily anti-land invasion operations at the site,” said
mayoral committee member for
human settlements, Malusi Booi. 
They City said the Empolweni
land invasions are on the direct
pathway of a R162 million water
pipeline project. 
“New housing
developments will further rely on
critical bulk service infrastructure
such as this project.”