Xenophobia lawsuit against cops nears end

2011-02-19 16:38

A lawsuit by a group of foreign nationals suing the safety and security ministry for failing to protect them during the 2008 xenophobic attacks is drawing to a close in the Equality Court in Cape Town.

The plaintiffs, from Somalia, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the ­Congo, are seeking compensation for damages suffered during the attacks; an apology from Minister of Safety and Security Nathi Mthethwa; and a new module in the police training programme that will teach ­recruits how to deal with foreign nationals in a sensitive manner.

Closing arguments in the civil case were heard on Thursday.

The claim forms part of a class action instituted by the University of Cape Town Law Clinic’s Refugee Rights Project (RRP) in June 2009. It stems from the looting of the applicants’ shops in ­Worcester during the xenophobic attacks that swept across the country.

The RRP is claiming damages on behalf of the affected community from the ­national and provincial departments of ­safety and the station commissioner of Zwelethu police station in Worcester.

Attorney Roseline Nyman of the RRP ­argued that police had refused to investigate the looting of shops owned by foreign ­nationals in Worcester and took no action when they were chased out of the township of Zwelethemba by South Africans.

Nyman said despite reports of the looting of shops owned by foreign nationals in other parts of the country, no assistance had been provided by the police.

State attorney Denzel Potgieter argued that police had “acted reasonably” because what had happened was unexpected. He said: “Police had taken various measures to assist the foreign shops. Our clients do not condone or support these acts of violence.”

Presiding Judge Nathan Erasmus said he needed time to consider his judgment and would announce the court date in due time. – West Cape News

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