- The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg says the raids conducted in Johannesburg in 2017-2018 were cruel and humiliating.
- It declared Section 13(7)(c) of the SAPS Act constitutionally invalid.
- The Socio-Economic Rights Institute represented more than 2 000 residents who were subjected to the raids.
The raids, which were conducted at 11 inner city buildings in Johannesburg's central business district between June 2017 and May 2018, were carried out in a manner that was "cruel, humiliating, degrading and invasive", the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled this week.
The high court declared Section 13(7)(c) of the South African Police Services Act 68 of 1995 (the SAPS Act) constitutionally invalid.
It ordered the legislature to cure the constitutional defect within 24 months.
In a judgment penned by Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, which was delivered on Monday, the court said the raids were directed at harassing and intimidating the residents into vacating the so-called "hijacked buildings".
Between 30 June 2017 and 3 May 2018, the residents of these buildings were subjected to warrantless searches by police officers.
Undocumented foreigners were arrested during the raids, which were conducted by members of the police and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).
At the time, then Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said: "Hijacked buildings are a major problem in our inner city, with our people living in deplorable conditions and being abused by slumlords who extort money from them."
He also said criminals were running into these rundown buildings and hiding when pursued by police, News24 reported.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) represented the more than 2 000 residents, asking the court to declare Section 13(7) of the SAPS Act constitutionally invalid.
They also wanted all the decisions authorising the searches, to which the residents were subjected, to be reviewed and set aside.
According to the judgment, during the raids the tenants were instructed by officers to leave their rooms.
The police officers, who were accompanied by metro cops, home affairs and City of Johannesburg officials, would then break down locked doors and tear down internal partitions in the applicants' homes.
"They also vandalised and destroyed some of their homes. Some of the applicants' possessions, including money, were stolen during the raids. None of the applicants consented to the search of their homes," the judgment reads.
"An elderly woman was forced to undress in front of a JMPD officer, who refused to leave the room in order to allow her to change out of her nightdress."
Some buildings were raided more than once.
The court said it found it "peculiar" that the former provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General Deliwe de Lange, asked no questions why this was necessary.
"Why was it necessary to carry out the same operations more than once in the same area? What did previous search and seizure raids in the same area reveal or yield? Why were previous raids ineffective?" the court questioned.
"Regrettably, it appears from the record before us that she [former provincial commissioner] took none of these relevant considerations into account before issuing authorisations for the repeat raids.
"All of this demonstrates that neither of the two decision-makers applied their minds to the material before them before issuing the written authorisations.
"They simply rubber-stamped the applications on the basis of the Legal Services' recommendations that were made."
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Khululiwe Bhengu of Seri attorneys, who are representing the residents, said: "The courts continue to interpret the Constitution in way that vindicates the rights of the poor.
"Because of this judgment, poor residents of the inner city can enjoy their homes without the fear of being raided by the police."