“My dignity was stripped” – Bulelani Qolani

Bulelani Qolani listens to a detective with the help of an interpreter. All photos by Lilita Gcwabe

A video showing Bulelani Qolani being dragged naked by the police went viral, attracting widespread condemnation. He says that he was treated in the most inhumane way possible.

28-year-old Bulelani Qolani from eThembeni informal settlement in Khayelitsha has described the actions of the police towards him as inhumane, stripping him of his dignity. Qolani is one of the eThembeni residents whose houses were demolished as they were evicted by the City of Cape Town’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit. A video of the police dragging and pushing him naked out of his shack went viral on social media on Wednesday afternoon. “I was treated badly and in the most inhumane way as if I don’t have rights and my dignity was stripped in the process,” he said.

During an interview with ENCA, the mayor of Cape Town, Dan Plato suggested that Qolani was naked on purpose to “make the City look bad” and that it was common cause that some people stand naked in front of their structures during raids.

“I don’t have a mental disorder and there is no way a grown man would strip naked for the whole world to see. There is no way that as a father I would have done that on purpose. I was getting ready to go to a meeting and taking a bath when they barged in,” said the father of four.

Qolani came to Cape Town in 2009 from King Williams Town and has worked as a driver up until he lost his job in November last year. He told Elitsha that he has been looking for a better job so that he can provide for his children and that he feels ashamed that everyone has seen him naked. “I haven’t spoken to my mother ever since the video came out. I’m worried about what this is doing to her health. My mother is 62 years old and she is back home in Border Post near King William’s Town,” he said.

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Qolani and other residents laid charges against the City of Cape Town, the Anti-Invasion Unit and some members of the mayoral council that are responsible for human settlement and safety and security. During the interview with Elitsha he had to go attend to detectives from the provincial office who came to take a further statement from him. “I want Malusi Booi (Mayco member for Human Settlement) and JP Smith (Mayco member for Safety and Security) to be prosecuted for demolishing our shacks without a court order,” he said.

Political party members marching to Harare police station to lay charges against the City of Cape Town

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said it would take the City of Cape Town to court for carrying out evictions during the lockdown.

“We will explore litigation against the city on evictions during the lockdown because it is illegal to do any evictions during covid-19. The court can give you an order to evict but you cannot execute it during covid-19. Even if you have got an order, that group or that particular person has the right to respond because after 48 hours you have to go through court processes. They have undermined the National Disaster Act,” said SAHRC commissioner, Chris Nissen, while he was visiting the site on Thursday.

Chris Nissen from the SAHRC says that they will be taking the City of Cape Town to court for carrying out evictions during the lockdown.

Political party leaders from the ANC and the EFF laid charges against the Cape Town Mayor, the Mayco member and the city’s executive director for Safety and Security, and the leaders of the police who gave orders to demolish the shacks. They opened cases at the Harare police station after a march from eThembeni to Harare.

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Community leader, Nomfuneko Khonokhono, said that political parties are using their plight to score political points. “We have been staying here since April and not even one political party leader was concerned enough to come and find out why we live like this. We have been sleeping in tents since then. We relieve ourselves in the veld. We do not have water. But, now because of the video, they all want to come here,” she said.

Another resident Thembisa Nxoze said that even the ward councillor in the area has always neglected them but has only come because of the video. ” The last time the councillor was here was when Lindiwe Sisulu came after the eMpolweni court case. He came with women wearing ANC doeks and now he was here yesterday with other ANC leaders in the City because of the video,” said Nxoze.

Qolani says that he wishes that his dignity and that of residents of eThembeni can be restored by getting decent houses and basic services.

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