JUSTICE FOR DUMISANI JOXO
SAHRC hearings into attacks on Cape Town’s homeless after police shooting of Rondebosch man
The recent fatal shooting in Cape Town of a homeless person, Dumisani Joxo, has prompted the South African Human Rights Commission to hold hearings into attacks on those who have nowhere to live.
Details of the proposed hearings emerged during a virtual meeting that not only looked into the circumstances surrounding the death of homeless man Dumisani Joxo on Sunday, 9 January 2022, but also into systemic attacks on homeless people in general.
Monday’s virtual meeting — hosted by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi, and attended by civil society organisations and representatives of homeless communities — discussed the perceived increase in brutality directed at poor families and the homeless by Cape Town law enforcement officers.
Joxo lived in a small informal camp on Chester Road, Rondebosch. On 9 January, he was allegedly fatally shot by City of Cape Town law enforcement officer Luvolwethu Kati, 22, after an argument over an outdoor fire. Kati has been charged with murder. He has been released on R1,000 bail and the case has been postponed to 12 April for further investigation.
One the day of the incident, law enforcement officers responded to reports of an open fire in the area. On arrival, they asked that the fire be extinguished. A scuffle reportedly ensued, during which Kati allegedly shot and killed Joxo.
The shooting raised questions about whether Kati had been properly trained in the handling of a firearm.
Ndifuna Ukwazi said in a statement it had noted claims by the city that its law enforcement officers were trained for six months. This included theoretical and supervised practical training.
“This pales in comparison to the training received by trainee officers of SAPS, which constitutes at least two years. We note that the city did not confirm whether its officers undergo trauma-informed training, which leads one to assume that they are not equipped with the necessary skills to engage street-based people,” the statement said.
Eldred de Klerk, director of the African Centre for Security and Intelligence Praxis, emphasised that simply because law enforcement and metro police had the legal authority to do certain things, this did not mean they should behave in an inhumane manner.
“This is ultimately about the quality of life and the right to life. With that yardstick, we can see whether police are treating people with the necessary dignity,” he said.
On the issue of firearms training, he said, “Officers have to consider multiple factors before drawing a weapon, including whether they can disengage, which might involve taking a few steps away from the perceived threat and considering the environment and circumstances they are in, like a confined space, for example.”
Matthew du Plessis, attached to the Western Cape office of the Human Rights Commission, said he was not sure the commission was the best place to deal with individual cases of violence by police or security forces.
But on a broader scale, he said, and from a more systemic point of view, the Western Cape office was already looking into issues of violence perpetrated by security forces, SAPS and law enforcement agencies.
“We notice a trend of violence and brutality being used against people who are being evicted… and also the treatment of homeless people on the streets.
“So basically, unless you are in a secure safe house and you are out in the open, there is this increased risk that manifests, as we have seen in violence by people given weapons by the State and told to enforce the law with those weapons,” he said.
Du Plessis said the Cape Town office would approach the SAHRC to initiate hearings into attacks on homeless people and those facing eviction.
“We are looking at hosting the first hearing in Knysna, where there is quite a resurgence of alleged attacks against homeless people, and the second hearing in Cape Town. The hearings will delve into why this happens on such a systemic level, and the issues causing this to happen over and over again, particularly in vulnerable groups,” he explained.
Roshila Nair, convenor of the basic needs working group of the Covid-19 People’s Coalition, believes that to prevent a recurrence of fatal incidents, all households in Rondebosch should receive a notification outlining homeless people’s rights and needs.
“Rondebosch is regarded as a university town and UCT should come aboard — it is time to get different roleplayers on board.”
Talking about Joxo’s funeral expenses, Mpho Raboeane, a lawyer at Ndifuna Ukwazi, said they had written to the City of Cape Town but were told they have “no liability insofar as the memorial or funeral” was concerned.
“The city refused Joxo dignity whilst he was alive and also in his death by showing no compassion towards his family.
“While we explore other options, including a potential damages claim against the city, we are calling on the public to contribute towards ensuring there are funds available to [bury the deceased] in the Eastern Cape on Saturday, 22 January.”
(See update below)
Ndifuna Ukwazi has started an online fundraising campaign to assist Joxo’s family with the costs of the funeral.
In a statement on Monday night, the City of Cape Town reiterated that it viewed the fatal shooting of Joxo in a serious light.
Media liaison officer Vennessa Scholtz said the city was cooperating with the police investigation. Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has also conveyed this commitment to the provincial SAPS commissioner.
“Any loss of life is a terrible tragedy and the incident warrants full investigations to get to the truth and ensure justice is done. Fatal shooting incidents involving law enforcement officers are an extreme rarity, and full account will be made to the relevant oversight bodies regarding this sad and tragic incident. These include the Civilian Oversight Committee and the Portfolio Committee for Safety and Security,” Scholtz said.
The city indicated that the officer involved in the shooting was in possession of a firearm competency certificate issued by SAPS, as all law enforcement officers are required to have.
“The officer has also undergone the accredited firearm training, which is compulsory for all law enforcement and SAPS officers,” the statement said.
*Regarding burial costs for the deceased, the City has a specific policy for contributions to the burial costs of indigent residents and this is always available for anyone who needs burial support, it said. “However, in this regard, the Mayor has reached out to the family of the deceased and indicated his willingness to help where possible with some of the costs associated with the burial,” the statement read. DM/MC
*This article was updated and amended on 24 January, 2022, to reflect the city’s policy for contributions to burial costs for the indigent.