Joburg warrantless raids: SAPS considering appealing high court ruling

Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg. (Hoberman Collection/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg. (Hoberman Collection/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
  • The police service is considering appealing a high court ruling that declared the warrantless raids conducted in Johannesburg constitutionally invalid. 
  • Section 13(7) of the South African Police Service Act was declared constitutionally invalid.
  • The high court said the raids were directed at harassing and intimidating residents into vacating the so-called "hijacked buildings". 

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is considering appealing a high court ruling, which declared the warrantless raids conducted at 11 inner city buildings in Johannesburg as constitutionally invalid. 

The court declared section 13(7) of the SAPS Act constitutionally invalid and ordered the legislature to cure the constitutional defect within 24 months.

The section gives the police the power to restore public order by giving the national or provincial commissioner authority to "cordon off" any area.

The raids were conducted between June 2017 and May 2018.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo told News24 on Wednesday that the ruling was retrospective.

"[The court] is asking that it be revisited by the legislative body and there were certain directions given, but we are in deliberation now [and] I think we still have time.

"We are seriously considering opposing that."

Naidoo did not provide reasons for the decision to appeal. 

In a judgment penned by Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, 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. 

The more than 2 000 residents were represented by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute.

READ: Fake goods worth R15m confiscated in Joburg CBD, more raids expected

Undocumented foreigners were arrested during the raids, which were conducted by members of the police and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department.  

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.

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.

ALSO READ: 102 arrested in crackdown on 'hijacked properties' in Joburg

"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 also forced to undress in front of a metro cop officer, who had refused to leave the room in order to allow her to change out of her nightdress, it said.  

Some buildings were raided more than once.

The high court said it found it "peculiar" that the former provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General Deliwe de Lange, asked no questions why this was necessary.

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