By Max Rambau, CORC
In the morning of the 5th March 2011, I received calls from Bapsfontein people who were panicking and sounding emotional informing that there were a lot of police cars (SAPS and EMPD) as well as trucks with “Red Ants”.
The heavy police presence was clearly a show of power and was meant to intimidate people.
Fortunately the community did not retaliate with violence. Now the Supreme Court will hear their case.
I was not able to go there at that time because I had a problem with my car. I managed to control the situation from afar as I asked people to be calm and not to try to fight with and throw stones at the police and that they must not resist when their shacks are demolished. This must have worked because there was no confrontation between the community and the police.
When I got there I found that demolishing of shacks had started taking place. People’s goods and furniture were being loaded onto trucks by the “Red Ants”. I then went to the police to ask them what was happening and demanded to speak to the person in charge. When I was referred to someone from the EMPD I said that I did not want to speak to municipal employees.
One SAPS officer indicated to me that they believe that this eviction was illegal and that they were just told to go to Bapsfontein.
I was then given a name of the person who was responsible for this eviction project. Her name was Reena from the Legal Department of the Ekurhuleni Metro Disaster Management. She informed me that what was happening at Bapsfontein was not eviction or relocation but evacuation. I then told her that we would meet in court that very same day.
I contacted lawyers from SERI, LHR and CALS. They all came and it showed that they were interested in this case. I ended up giving this case to Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) who then applied for an urgent court sitting. The case was heard at the Pretoria Supreme Court at 15h00.
The Judge of the Supreme Court stopped Ekurhuleni Metro from continuing with their action at Bapsfontein until Wednesday when the case will be heard at the Supreme Court.
After the court case I communicated with the ISN about the judge’s decision and they then went to Bapsfontein to give support and help to offload the goods and furniture from the trucks.
Unfortunately, 98 shacks had already been destroyed and some goods and furniture had been taken away without their owners because the people had refused to go.
From Pretoria we went back to Bapsfontein to give report back to the community. I indicated to them that people’s power meant that they had to use strategies without violence and that this had worked because the municipality was expecting resistance and violence which did not happen. I indicated to them that if they had retaliated, some of them would have been arrested and the focus would have shifted from what the municipality was doing to what the people were doing.