Premier called “racist girl” as tensions flare at Lwandle inquiry

| Barbara Maregele
Sheena Jonker of Access to Justice before her presentation to the inquiry. Photo by Barbara Maregele.

Tensions flared during the second half of the Lwandle inquiry yesterday after Ses’khona leader Loyiso Nkohla referred to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille as a “racist girl”. The remark prompted an infuriated DA staffer, Jamie Turkington, to interject during Nkohla’s presentation.

Turkington was asked to leave, and stormed out of the room.

The inquiry, chaired by advocate Denzil Potgieter, was appointed by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu after the demolition of shacks on land owned by SANRAL last month.

Nkohla made the “racist girl” remark on several occasions during his submissions. Responding to allegations by Zille and Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille that Ses’khona sold plots at Lwandle illegally and inflated the number of people affected by the evictions, Nkohla said:

“There is this racist girl called Helen Zille. It was proven by the Human Rights Commission, a chapter nine institution which found that the Western Cape government is a group of racist people.”

He was referring to an HRC report on chemical toilets in Cape Town informal settlements which found that the DA-run city council “unfairly discriminated” against black Africans in its implementation of sanitation services.

“We have been challenging this racist girl.”

At this, Turkington interjected, calling for Potgieter to stop Nkohla from making derogatory remarks.

“Chair, are we going to allow this type of language in this inquiry?” he asked. “What is the basis for calling Zille a racist girl? I want to ask Access to Justice whether this violates (her) right to dignity or not. I want to know why you tolerate this language without substantiation. If I’m personally offended by it then I have to raise it because no one else is.”

Potgieter said Turkington was being disrespectful to the inquiry.

“I’m going to ask that you be removed. If you can’t behave, then you are more than welcome to leave. Please leave. You are being contemptuous,” he said.

Thereafter, Nkohla said the organisation had been involved with the community months before the most recent evictions.

“We were invited by the community after the first eviction (in February this year). We want to make it clear that we are not a group of opportunists,” he said.

“We want (Zille) to bring this evidence (of us selling plots and bringing people in from the Eastern Cape) so we can go to court. We were established to defend people from the racist government in the Western Cape. They are disgruntled after we beat them in the court a few days ago.”

Nkohla said they would be establishing a separate inquiry into the eviction at a later stage.

Members of the inquiry further questioned him on Ses’khona’s involvement in Lwandle after the eviction.

He added that the number of 849 families consisted of all the evictees and not only to those currently living in the Nomzamo Community hall.

Access to Justice founder Sheena Jonker said they were requested to assist residents by Ses’khona after the June evictions.

“When you are poor in South Africa, your access to justice looks very different to someone who is [rich]. We are not looking for heads to roll, we want to accomplish healing. We do this by engaging with the community and advising them on a legal way forward,” she said.

Jonker related the experiences of residents with whom she had spoken. Some had been assaulted and verbally abused by police, including a pregnant woman who claims she was kicked.

“We were informed of loss of life of an unborn baby. Arrested residents were beaten up while in custody and a live round was recovered from the scene. No matter how you look at it, this action was unlawful. We can’t partake in actions that plunge us into further darkness. The fact that families and young children were exposed to this level of inhumanity can’t be accepted,” she said.

Jonker said that Access to Justice planned to compile further evidence in order to take the matter forward.

However, when asked if they had reported the cases of abuse by police to the Independent Police Investigative Directive (IPID), Jonker said that they had not yet done so.

Lotta Mayana, president of the human rights organisation, Sobahlangula Social Investment Project, briefly gave an oral submission requesting for the rights of the affected Lwandle residents to be restored as soon as possible.

The hearings resume today.

TOPICS:  Government Housing Human Rights Politics

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