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Evictions: Knysna council admits fault

8 April 2022

CAPE TOWN - The Knysna Municipality has admitted that it “should have done a better assessment” of the situation before moving in with private security to demolish informal structures in Hornlee during riots in September 2020.

This concession emerged during the second day of the South African Human Rights Commission’s (Sahrc) provincial hearings into violence incidents during evictions of unlawful occupiers and interactions with homeless people.

The riots resulted in several injuries while one person lost their eye after being shot with a rubber bullet.

Acting director for corporate services at the Knysna Municipality, Melony Paulsen, said during testimony that “in retrospect, the municipality had an incorrect perception that the situation would not be volatile”.

Paulsen confirmed 31 Red Ants members had acted on municipal instructions to demolish structures, “that were not occupied”.

“There was an incorrect perception that the situation would not be volatile. We now know, in retrospect, that more engagement had to be done with the community.

“There was an error in judgment by the municipality and it was a wrong decision… but yes, the correct procedure when we have a preventative interdict is for us to have those section 4 meetings.

“But from incident reports, it was never anticipated by the decision maker that they would be met with such hostility which we now know was a wrong decision. In retrospect, we should have held back on the operation ’til such time where we had more intel on the ground,” said Paulsen.

Complaints received by the SAHRC included a report from an accredited SAHRC monitor on in February 2021, alleging that members of Red Ants Security assaulted and pointed a firearm at a child during an eviction/demolition in Atlantis while numerous inhabitants of the affected community were assaulted and terrorised.

A complaint from the Oasis Farm Community in Wynberg alleged that they were subjected to violence and property damage at the hands of Red Ants Security and law enforcement agencies in October 2020.

Knysna Public Order Policing, represented by Captain Frans van Rooyen, said police had been alerted to the situation in Hornlee when the matter had already escalated and became volatile.

After the public hearings conclude, the SAHRC will make findings and give directives to assist the SAPS, law enforcement and security companies.

In a statement, Ndifuna Ukwazi said “the president’s statement is silent on what the state’s position is with respect to the moratorium on evictions”.

Enquiries to the Presidency had not been answered by deadline on Thursday.

The final day of the provincial hearings will continue today during which the commission is set to hear testimony from the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA) and the Red Ants into alleged violence incidents which occurred on September 20, 2020.

Source: Cape Times

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