- The Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that the over 20 police raids conducted of residents occupying 11 buildings in inner city Johannesburg was unconstitutional and unlawful.
- The raids were conducted at the behest of the police minister and former mayor Herman Mashaba, between June 2017 and May 2018.
- The apex court struck down a section of the Police Act which allows warrantless searches in areas that are cordoned off.
The Constitutional Court has struck down a section of the Police Act which allows warrantless searches in areas that are cordoned off.
In a judgment on Friday, the apex court ruled that the more than 20 police raids conducted on residents occupying 11 buildings in inner city Johannesburg was unconstitutional and unlawful.
All but two of the searches were conducted in terms of written authorisations issued in terms of section 13(7) of the Act.
The court found the raids between June 2017 and May 2018, "illustrate the humiliation and disregard of persons who live in poor socio-economic circumstances".
It said the matter was a stark reminder that, even after more than 27 years into democracy, the constitutional promise of dignity and equality remained unfulfilled.
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"Section 13(7) does not provide for 'differentiation as to the nature of the search or the nature of the premises searched'. This has resulted in warrantless searches in these regularly cordoned off areas being the rule instead of the exception," said Judge Nonkosi Mhlantla.
"What is unconstitutional is only that portion of the section that permits warrantless searches without appropriate safeguards."
Mhlantla, in a majority judgment, said the applicants were poor and vulnerable people who were subjected to "cruel, degrading and invasive raids, which were conducted without any warrants".
"The true purpose of the raids was not only to seek out and arrest undocumented immigrants, but also to frighten and harass the applicants into leaving their homes."
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) had represented the more than 2 000 residents.
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Khululiwe Bhengu, SERI's attorney representing the residents, said: "We welcome this judgment as a necessary affirmation of the residents' right to dignity and privacy, especially after the recent police raids in the aftermath of the unrest in July. It brings an end to intrusive and warrantless raids specifically targeting poor and marginalised groups."