Cape Town seeks court permission to evict homeless immigrants

bishop_paul_verryn___george_bizos.jpgSA commitment to human rights under scrutiny in refugee case

Bishop Paul Verryn and human rights lawyer George Bizos
CAPE TOWN -- South

The City of Cape Town has asked the Western Cape Town to confirm an
eviction notice it has filed against some 400 refugees who have been
living at Blue Waters safety camp near Muizenberg since last May's
xenophobic violence.

In the same way, Pitje Chambers, a Johannesburg firm of lawyers which
is located near the Central Methodist Church, wants the estimated 3 500
refugees being housed by anti-apartheid campaigner Bishop Paul Verryn
to be relocated immediately.

However, the ANC and the state government are pushing for a dignified exit for the refugees from the safety camps.

Island of prosperity

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Thursday scoffed at suggestions
that South Africa must tightly seal its borders to keep out
undocumented immigrants from neighbouring countries.

South Africa cannot be an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty
around the region, said Mantashe. No electric fence will stop poor
people from coming here… this is why it is important to revitalise
the Zimbabwean economy.

In the same vein, the South African cabinet on Wednesday proposed
transit camps to hold Zimbabweans while their papers were being
processed by Home Affairs. Cabinet had tasked Home Affairs to draw up a
blue print on this proposal for further consideration, spokesman Thabo
Masebe told reporters.

This stance is in stark contrast to the position taken by Gauteng local
government MEC Dorothy Mahlangu. Mahlangu has said that Zimbabwean
refugees should not be allowed to stay at the Central Methodist Church,
and that Bishop Verryn was exposing the refugees to dangers which
included communicable diseases.

Pitje Chambers was unhappy with the unplanned massing of people in its
precinct, arguing that the refugees posed a danger to public health
because of their propensity to relieve themselves and wash their bodies
in public. In addition, the lawyers accused the exiles of scaring away
potential clients by their unsavoury ablution mannerisms.

However, renowned human rights lawyer George Bizos last week petitioned
the Johannesburg High Court to protect the rights of the refugees and
asylums seekers by throwing out the lawyers' application.

(Xhead) SA obliged to protect refugees

Bizos argued that South Africa was obliged under international refugee
law to protect the human rights of persons who had fled persecution in
their home countries.

In such instances, the receiving state was compelled to suspend certain
rights and to marshal available and necessary resources to deal with
the ensuing emergency.

It is correct that the [Johannesburg] city council should implement
its by-laws, but by-laws cannot be implemented in times of emergency,
said Bizos, who represented Nelson Mandela during the 1964 Rivonnia

The Johannesburg application had been preceded by the Cape Town city
authorities bid to shut down Blue Waters and reintegrate the safety
camp residents into local communities.

Johannesburg High Court Judge, Justice Mayor, was scheduled to hand down the court's decision on Friday.

The City of Cape Town has contended that the refugees still living at
Blue Waters had spurned previous offers of assistance. We made it
clear that this was not a permanent solution. You cannot have refugee
camps in the middle of society, Peter Cronje of the City of Cape Town
told the Mail & Guardian.

The refugees were grouped in adhoc camps around South Africa after
frenzied attacks by locals on foreigners, mainly black Africans in
townships and informal settlements. About 60 people were killed in an
orgy of xenophobic violence that rocked South Africa in 2008.

While the Gauteng region was the epicenter of the unprovoked attacks,
some 20 000 people in the Western Cape were moved into safety camps to
shield them from marauding locals.

Fear of fresh attacks

Cape Town's bid to forcibly move the remaining residents of Blue Waters
has, however, attracted the ire of rights activists here. Human rights
defenders fear that some locations were still unsafe for the displaced

Some have tried to reintegrate on more than one occasion. Because
they fear for their safety they're not going back. said Tracey

Saunders has worked with the victims of what Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Bishop Desmond Tutu described as a blight on South Africa's widely
vaunted human rights culture.

After its 1994 reintegration into the international family of nations,
South Africa crafted a human rights orientated constitution that
underpins human dignity, equality and the supremacy of the law.

But the xenophobic violence and the grubby conditions under which
survivors and more recent arrivals have been forced to live, have cast
doubts on the country's pledge to uphold the human rights of African

Saunders' argument and the refugees apprehension about security
measures ostensibly mounted to smooth their reintegration is predicated
on last month's murder of seven Zimbabwean refugees in De Doorns, Cape
Town. The refugees' shack in the informal settlement was torched while
they slept.

The refugees argue that factors that ignited the flare up had not been
dealt with effectively. As a result, low level violence was still being
perpetrated on foreigners from Africa, derisively referred to as

If the people leave the centre they should leave in safety and
dignity, they shouldn't be evicted, said Lawrence Mgbangson, senior
liaison officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Court says magistrate was correct to order release of top politician

MUTARE – A court in the eastern Mutare city last Tuesday quashed
charges against a magistrate who was accused of criminal abuse of
office after he ordered the release on bail of a top official of Prime
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party.

The court ruled that there was no evidence that magistrate Livingston
Chipadze had committed any offence when he permitted MDC treasurer Roy
Bennett to pay bail money and later signed a warrant for the
politician's release from jail.

Chipadze had ordered Bennett's release in accordance with an earlier
High Court ruling authorizing the release of the MDC politician. The
state had later challenged the ruling at the Supreme Court but well
after the stipulated time to do so.

The Mutare court ruled that even though the appeal by the state
effectively nullified the High Court order granting Bennett freedom,
Chipadze had acted within the law when he authorised the politician's
release because the state had been late in filing its appeal.

Meanwhile Bennett, who was later released on bail by the Supreme Court, will appear in court tomorrow on routine remand hearing.

A top ally of Tsvangirai and his pick for deputy minister of
agriculture, Bennett was arrested on February 13 at a small airport
outside Harare as he was leaving the country for South Africa and faces
charges of terrorism, insurgency, sabotage or banditry.

He denies the charges and the MDC said on Tuesday that the case against
Bennett was politically motivated, vindictive and indicative of mafia
style tactics of those that wish to see the collapse of the inclusive
transitional government.


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