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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Media Statement: Western Cape High Court Affirms the Constitutional Powers of the SAHRC, SAHRC to Take Action on the Utterances of the City of Cape Town

Attention: Editors and Reporters

Thursday, 18th March 2021

The South African Human Rights Commission (the SAHRC or the Commission) welcomes the judgement handed down by Judge Siraj Desai, in the Western Cape High Court, on Wednesday, the 17th March 2021.
The Western Cape High Court has criticised the City of Cape Town for its treatment of human rights monitors at its camp for homeless people in Strandfontein. The City was granted an interdict preventing the Commission and its independent human rights monitors from entering the Strandfontein relocation camp, in May 2020. The camp housed about 2,000 homeless people relocated from different parts of the city at the start of the national lockdown, in accordance with Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002, to curb the spread of COVID -19.

The interdict followed a report released by the SAHRC that brought to light disturbing conditions at the camp. In response the City went to court for an interdict, arguing that the Commission and its monitors had caused disruption at the camp, and were spreading “misinformation and lies.” The City, at the time, also argued that the SAHRC did not have the power to appoint independent monitors to supplement their staff, and that the monitors were in breach of lockdown regulations.

The Western Cape High Court thus dismissed this interdict, granted to the City in 2020, which prevented the monitors and the SAHRC from entering the site, the City was also ordered to pay costs for the hearing.

This judgement re-affirms the Constitutional mandate of the SAHRC to independently exercise its powers to protect, promote and – more specifically – monitor the attainment of human rights.

The Commission however notes the statement issued by the City of Cape Town, in the wake of the judgement and views the City’s utterances in a serious and disturbing light.
The Commission views these utterances as a flagrant disregard of the judgement as it is an attack on the SAHRC, Commissioner Chris Nissen and the decision of the Court.

The Commission is thus considering its options in taking appropriate legal action to protect its independence and that of its Commissioners as well as the Constitutional powers to deliver on its mandate.
The Commission finds it disturbing, that in the wake of a judgement affirming the Constitutional powers of the Commission and the rights of the most vulnerable, being the homeless that the City of Cape Town would choose to issue such a statement.

Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission
Gushwell Brooks – Communications Co-ordinator Tel: 082 645 8573 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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About us

The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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