An Eastern Cape mayor has been in jail since Friday for contempt of court.
Ngquza Hill mayor Jongintaba Mndingi was jailed for failing to find homes for the people his municipality evicted when it demolished 35 New Rest, Lusikisiki homes in 2016.
Police spokeswoman Lieutenant Sibongile Soci confirmed the arrest of Mdingi, but refused to comment saying it was a civil, not criminal court matter.
Soon after the evictions, in 2016, Mdingi and his municipality were ordered by the court to build temporary structures for the families.
When the municipality failed to do so, Lawyers for Human Rights applied for urgent relief.
The attorney representing the families, LRC’s Louise Du Plessis, said Mdingi was arrested on Friday for contempt of court on an order that was granted on Friday.
Du Plessis said they would launch a class action lawsuit to have the municipality pay for damaged goods. “We have not yet established how much the damage is but it will be a massive claim. We are also pursuing a criminal case,” she said.
Du Plessis said some families had to move in with family members.
She said the families were now living in shacks after they had invested in building their homes.
The 35 families whose homes were demolished claimed they were never given an opportunity to even remove their furniture.
A spokesman for the affected families, Ayanda Mfolozi, said they had been living in the area for 20 years. “We got a court order in October 2016 to have the municipality to build temporary structures for us where our homes were but the municipality did not do that,” Mfolozi said.
It could not be established at the time of writing when Mdingi was due to appear in court.
Hawks spokeswoman Anelisa Feni referred queries to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), saying the arrest was as a result of a court order.
NPA spokesman Luxolo Tyali said he would only be able to comment once Mdingi had appeared in court.
ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayitobi said: “We have received the devastating news. It is unprecedented and we are taking it very seriously.”
Ngcukayitobi said the ANC would have to investigate how the order of the court was not adhered to and who was responsible before the party took any steps.
“The ANC views court outcomes in a very serious light and we always expect adherence to them unless there is a challenge in a higher court,” Ngcukayitobi said.
The municipality could not be reached for comment at the time of writing yesterday.