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#CityofCapeTown trended on Wednesday and Thursday as users criticised the Cape Town municipality over an eviction incident that went viral.
A video shared on the platform on 1 July showed law enforcement officials pulling 28-year-old Bulelani Qholani naked from his home while he was bathing.
Officers prevent Qholani from re-entering the structure, repeatedly pushing him back and to the ground while attempting to close the door’s gate.
When Qholani gets back inside, officers tear the structure down around him.
The video of the incident was shared widely on social media, with prominent leaders and politicians criticising the City for the conduct of its Anti-Land Invasion Unit.
The incident took place in Khayelitsha on Wednesday during an eviction operation.
The behaviour of officers comes at a time of increased focus on police and law enforcement’s treatment of black people around the world.
While the Black Lives Matter movement has gained global attention, South Africans have also contributed to the movement by calling for justice for Collins Khosa and other South African residents who died after incidents involving police and army members.
The City of Cape Town has also faced criticism in recent weeks over its continued removals during lockdown, in addition to plans to introduce new “nuisance” by-law amendments.
In June, the municipality also removed marquees set up by an Observatory resident to help shelter homeless people from the rain.
Users call out City over incident
A range of public figures took to Twitter to criticise the municipality along with other users sharing posts under #CityofCapeTown.
This included former DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim, journalist Karyn Maughan, and Country Duty founder Tumi Sole.
Conducting home evictions in winter, in the middle of a global pandemic, amongst the poorest and most vulnerable people in Cape Town is unconscionable. Doing so with violence and by publicly stripping people of their dignity is unforgivable. Where is leadership in the @CityofCT?
— Lindiwe Mazibuko (@LindiMazibuko) July 1, 2020
— Tumi Sole (@tumisole) July 1, 2020
The City of Cape Town has CRIMINALIZED poverty.
It seems to believe poor people don’t deserve to be treated with any decency or compassion or dignity whatsoever.
These evictions are more than heartbreaking and dehumanizing.
They are SHAMEFUL. https://t.co/JWExME94V1
— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) July 1, 2020
(Editor’s note: Memeburn has not embedded any tweets including the video of the incident out of respect for Bulelani Qholani)
Response by City of Cape Town
An initial response by the City of Cape Town said that it would suspend four staff members involved in the incident.
The City added that the eviction was part of its operations to “prevent illegal land occupation”.
The City is in the process of suspending staff members pending further investigation and disciplinary procedures related to an incident today in Khayelitsha. We are saddened by the conduct depicted on the video footage and we do not condone any forceful and dehumanising conduct. pic.twitter.com/CPeLbxdCOY
— City of Cape Town (@CityofCT) July 1, 2020
However, the city continued to face criticism for ordering evictions in winter. Winter marks the region’s rainy season.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen poverty and unemployment around the world.
The City shared an additional statement on 2 July from Mayor Dan Plato as #CityofCapeTown trended on Twitter.
— City of Cape Town (@CityofCT) July 2, 2020
Plato also confirmed that the officers were suspended and the City has launched an investigation. However, he again reiterated the City’s initial statements.
Plato said that the operation was part of municipalities’ “duty to prevent illegal land invasions”.
The SAHRC has said that it will launch an investigation into the treatment of Qholani.
Bulelani Qholani speaks about incident
In an interview with GroundUp, Qholani spoke about the eviction. He said that he had been living in eThembeni in Khayelitsha for four months already.
“I asked them: ‘Guys, where is your court order?’. They didn’t have a court order. I told them, ‘Bring up the court order, bring up the permit’. I was in my room, washing,” he said.
Qholani added: “I asked them to wait for two minutes outside the house. The one guy would not listen to me. He came in and told me to get out. I asked them for one minute. Then they threw me outside.”
He criticised the city and officers for taking away his dignity.
You can read the full interview on GroundUp.
Feature image: Sara Kurfeß via Unsplash