Leaked City WhatsApp chat shows ordering destruction of shack again
(This article has been updated to reflect that the headline incorrectly stated that JP Smith had ordered the shack to be destroyed again when it fact it was one of his staff from Housing and Anti Land Invasion Unit that gave the order.)
On Thursday, a video of City of Cape Town officials dragging naked Bulelani Qholani from his shack in the Mpolweni site in Khayelitsha went viral.
On Thursday afternoon Mayor of Cape Town Dan Plato apologised for the way the official had behaved and insisted four officers involved had been suspended pending an investigation.
A screengrab from a City of Cape Town workgroup, later confirmed by JP Smith as the Housing and Anti Land Invasion Unit, has been leaked - written shortly after the mayor's apology.
In it, JP Smith forwards an image of the rebuilt shack to one of his staff who then explains that Bulelani Qholani's neighbours had rebuilt his shack with an image of the shack attached.
A member called Anton believed to be Anton Terblanche at City of Cape Town replies:
"Illegal structure then…needs to be demolished with or without naked man." To which a housing official on the group responds, "yes".
CapeTalk contacted Smith who replied via Whatsapp with the following:
"I didn't "order" anything. Was sharing relevant news with officials who work in Housing and Anti Land Invasion Unit. Malicious person who shared this screenshot has conveniently not included all the other news updates that have been shared. The post of the person following is that of a Housing official.
Smith added that all interviews on this issue would be conducted by Mayor Plato.
The Mpolweni site is an issue that was raised by the City in court prior to lockdown. The court ordered that the 49 shacks already constructed on the site could remain for the duration of lockdown.
Evictions are forbidden during the lockdown and anyone who is removed from a house needs to be found alternative accommodation, according to regulations.
The question remains - did the City get a court order to take down Qholani's shack? Legally this would be required.
Community Chest's Lorenzo Davids joined the conversation. They have written a letter to DA leader John Steenhuizen and Premier Alan Winde calling for the immediate suspension of JP Smith.
He says they will take further action if necessary.
Davids commends the City for suspending the four officials involved directly but says those who gave the orders need to be held to account.
Listen to the conversation below with Barbara Friedman on Barbs Wire and the Community Chest's Lorenzo Davids with Kieno Kammies:
Please note: In the discussion of the leaked screengrab JP Smith had forwarded the re-erected shack to his colleagues and it was Anton Terblanche on the Housing and Anti Land Invasion Unit made the comment that the shack be taken down again.