Cape Town mayor doesn't want to 'throw law enforcement officials under bus' for eviction of naked man

Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato. (Grant Pitcher, Gallo Images, file)
Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato. (Grant Pitcher, Gallo Images, file)
  • Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato said there would be an independent investigation into City law enforcement officials forcefully removing a naked man from his house.
  • However, he didn't want to throw the officials, who he said were doing their jobs, under the bus.
  • Plato was also concerned about the "homeless plight" and said the "silent majority" were dissatisfied

While he has ordered an internal and independent investigation into the "unfortunate" eviction of a naked man from his Khayelitsha home on Wednesday, Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato says doesn't want to throw the law enforcement officials "under the bus".

Plato was participating in interim DA leader John Steenhuisen's "Coronacast" with Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Friday.

After discussing what the DA had done during the 99-day lockdown, Steenhuisen told viewers that, apart from "the party's ongoing fight to protect your rights", it also had to do something where it was in government, adding that he was very proud of the party's governments, like the Western Cape, Cape Town and Midvaal.

After a lengthy discussion with Winde on the Western Cape's response to the pandemic, he turned to his "good friend" Plato and said: "I'm going to start by talking about the elephant in the room."

Public outrage followed after Bulelani Qolani was filmed being chased naked and tackled by law enforcement officers during an eviction in eThembeni, which is opposite the Zandvliet Waste Water works in Macassar. Qolani escaped their clutches and returned to his shack, which was then broken down while he was still inside. 

Plato described these events as "unfortunate".

Plato said: 

"It is something you don't want on your doorstep, in your area."

"Look, we've been trying to protect that piece of site the last couple of months. There is almost every second day land invasions and that site is earmarked for development." 

"If we continue to allow land invasions, we will never see housing developments on any of our sites. It will only be shack structures to the teeth and that sort of thing."

Plato said the City had a court order allowing them to remove new structures.

"We did not act in contravention of the lockdown regulations." 

He said "that person" – Qolani – was roaming between the structures before he "purposefully walked into his shack", and had "made himself naked without any law enforcement officer" present.

"Nakedly, he walked out, showed himself," Plato said, adding that Qolani had then walked back in.

"Definitely, the way he was treated is unfortunate," Plato said. "They should have used a little more restraint and more compassion, because he was naked."

"I don't want to throw our law enforcement officers under the bus. They were just doing their jobs."

WATCH | Bulelani Qolani seeks justice, neighbours team up to rebuild his shack after dragging

Plato said, however, that there would be a "full-scale investigation" – it would be investigated internally and the City would appoint an independent, external investigator, and that report would be disclosed once completed.

'More compassion'

Steenhuisen said it was good that the City had acted quickly in suspending the four officials and announcing an investigation, but that there could have been "greater restraint and more compassion".

Plato also spoke on another topic that drew the City's commitment to treating people with dignity into question - the Strandfontein shelter for homeless people.

"At the time, it was the best facilities for homeless people in South Africa," he said.

But then politics had crept in.

"I'm very worried about the homeless plight," Plato said, adding that there were many places for homeless shelters, but that homeless people "refuse" to go there.

READ | SAHRC to take City of Cape Town to court after naked man dragged from shack

He said he had written to President Cyril Ramaphosa to ask that he appoint an intergovernmental team to deal with the matter.

"The silent majority is beginning to crop up," Plato said. Their message was: "If you're not going to take action, we are."

He said the conditions created by homeless people were creating an "intolerable situation".

"The ordinary, law-abiding citizens don't like this, and they don’t want this."

Steenhuisen said: "We get hammered when things go wrong, but there is very little credit when the City and province do things right."

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