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SAHRC rejects Hangberg unrest claims

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The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Tuesday rejected claims it was delaying a probe into clashes between metro police and squatters in Hout Bay four years ago.

“The commission would like to reject as misleading suggestions that we are dithering or blocking a report in this matter, or withholding a finding,” spokesman Isaac Mangena said.

It was not the appropriate body to deal with complaints by Hangberg residents, and had referred them to the appropriate organisations.

On September 21, 2010, 62 people were arrested and 18 injured when the City of Cape Town dismantled illegal structures in Hangberg. Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and 29 unoccupied shacks were demolished.

The shacks had been built on a firebreak, making them unsafe for occupation, and on the slopes of the Sentinel, a world heritage site.

Mangena was responding to a Hout Bay Civic Association statement on Monday calling for the SAHRC to make its findings on the Hangberg unrest public.

Spokesman Roscoe Jacobs said: “[Sunday] marked four years since the Battle of Hangberg and those responsible have not been held accountable because the SAHRC and public protector failed to investigate [Western Cape Premier Helen] Zille’s involvement in the riots”.

He said if the SAHRC did not have findings on the residents’ complaints it should explain to the people of Hangberg why it had failed to protect their human rights.

Residents had laid a complaint against the City of Cape Town with the SAHRC. Mangena said the SAHRC’s position was communicated to all parties, including the complainants, last year. He explained the complaints included alleged maladministration, corruption, and police brutality and that these were referred to the appropriate institutions.

Police brutality complaints were referred to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and the maladministration complaints to the public protector.

The complaint relating the rights of Khoi-San people were referred to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.

“Regarding the proposal for a joint investigation with the office of the public protector, the SAHRC held meetings with the public protector and no joint investigation was ever launched and there was no agreement that there would be such.”

The SAHRC had a follow-up meeting with the Ipid in November 2013. Investigators subsequently told the SAHRC they were attending to the complaints, but had difficulties in getting witness statements, Mangena said. SAPA

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