[Press Release] Mayor of Lusikisiki arrested for contempt of a court order

On Friday, 13 April 2018, the New Rest community witnessed justice in action when the Mayor of Lusikisiki, Mr Patrick Mdingi, was arrested for being in contempt of a court order. Together with the Municipal Manger, Mr Mluleki Fihlani, the Mayor refused to build emergency shelters for the community, whose homes were unlawfully demolished in October 2016 by the Inqguza Hill Local Municipality (“The Municipaltiy”).


Brief background:

This matter has a lengthy litigation history which dates back to 6 October 2016, when the Municipality allegedly demolished 36 households without a court order and leaving over 150 people homeless (the “New Rest community”) and without emergency shelter and services.

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) then brought an urgent application in the High Court in Grahamstown against the Municipality seeking emergency temporary shelter on behalf of the New Rest community. On 18 October 2016, an order by agreement was granted by Plasket J, instructing the Municipality to erect emergency temporary structures for the community within 72 hours. It is prudent mention that Judge Plasket noted that the events of 6 October 2016 ‘reeked of Apartheid style tactics’ that have no place in our constitutional democracy. The Municipality failed to comply with the order.

The Mayor and Municipal manager had knowledge of the order but failed in their duties to ensure that the court order was justly executed. In November 2016, LHR immediately re-approached the High Court on an urgent basis seeking a contempt of court order against the Municipality and personally against the Mayor and Municipal Manager. The relief sought by the community was simple: Should the Respondents fail to erect emergency shelter within 10 days, the Mayor and Municipal Manager should be arrested for failing to comply with a court order.  On 29 December 2016, Judge Roberson granted the contempt of court order against the Respondents.

For the next year and a half, the New Rest community made several travels from Lusikisiki to Grahamstown – an 8 hour trip each way – to attend hearings where the Mayor and Municipal Manager sought numerous unsuccessful attempts to have their contempt of order appealed. When both the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed their request for leave to appeal, in June 2017 the Municipality brought an application to vary the initial order granted in October 2016. The variation application was also correctly dismissed by Acting Judge Bodlani on 3 April 2018, who noted in his judgment that:

“The events that led to Plasket J’s order are a sorry reminder of the darkest part of the history of this country and the conditions with which its previously oppressed and segregated majority had to contend”.

 With the incredible assistance of the Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown, the warrants of the arrest for the Mayor and Municipal Manager were issued on 10 April 2018.


The New Rest Community celebrates

After two years of strenuous legal battles and admirable faith in the justice system, even when slow, the New Rest Community triumphantly banded together and followed the Sheriff of Lusikisiki, with the police, to witness the arrest of the Mayor - who was at home Friday evening.

The Mayor was arrested and is currently being held at the Lusikisiki Correctional Services Centre. The community spend most of Friday night rejoicing and singing outside of the correctional centre and reaffirming the basic principle of our democracy that no one is above the law.

The Mayor has been committed to prison for a period of 30 days. Although the current whereabouts of the Municipal Manager are unknown, a warrant of his arrest has also been issued.

The Mayor has now launched an urgent application in the High Court in Grahamstown for his immediate release.

More details to follow

For more details contact Louise Du Plessis, Land and Housing Programme Manager on 012 320 2943 or Carol Mohlala, Media and Communications Manager on 079 238 9826