Category Archives: red ants

Daily Maverick: Shack flames highlight Makause’s deadly combo of lies and local politics

http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-10-18-shack-flames-highlight-makauses-deadly-combo-of-lies-and-local-politics

Shack flames highlight Makause’s deadly combo of lies and local politics

If you thought the road to Mangaung was paved with obfuscation and complexity, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Dig into a local municipality and you’ll find the politics there just as confounding. If not more so. By MANDY DE WAAL.

This is a story of three protagonists – all with divergent versions of what happened. First up is General Alfred Moyo, who is unemployed and lives in Makause, an informal settlement in Primrose, a suburb of Germiston on Gauteng’s East Rand. He’s an activist and, from what this journalist can see (admittedly after just two visits to Makause), he’s fairly highly regarded in the community because he helps people stand up to power and he fixes problems. Makause is a socialist and well-versed in issues of constitutional and land rights, which doesn’t make him popular with the authorities in the area.

Tania Lynette Campbell is the councillor for ward 21 (Primrose) which belongs (politically) to the DA. Campbell took the ward in both the 2006 and 2011 elections and, judging by the election results, it was a good race in an ANC-owned metro.

The other character in this drama is Aubrey Mokgosi, who’s the director of Human Settlements Property & Institutional Support in the Department: Human Settlements in the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Council.

The story goes like this. On Saturday 13 October 2012, a woman allegedly commited suicide by taking petrol from a generator, pouring it over herself and setting herself alight after her man walked out on her. Makause is an incredibly dense informal settlement; the shacks are wedged well up against each other, and for the most part made of highly flammable materials. Within a short space of time, 18 shacks were consumed.

On Monday 15 October, after many of the 18 families slept out in the rain, Daily Maverick heard about the story from Moyo, the activist. One of the first calls was, of course, to Campbell, the ward councillor, to find out what was going on. Campbell was unaware of the fire in the informal settlement.

“I am surprised I haven’t been notified, because the community development worker has not contacted me. She normally phones me. I haven’t been notified whatsoever,” Campbell said.

“I will have to follow up, I don’t even have knowledge of that whatsoever,” she added.

The community development worker referred to by Campbell, Moyo alleges, doesn’t even live in Makause, but stays some 30km away near Vosloosrus. Community development workers, or CDWs, are an invention of the Mbeki era and, during his tenure as president, The Aloof One said these “multi-skilled community development workers’’ would be government’s direct link to communities. The idea was to “bring government nearer to people and to enable it to respond to community needs”, as expressed at the time.

Ekurhuleni’s Human Settlement man, Aubrey Mokgosi, heard of the incident late on Sunday night, and on Monday morning got the wheels of bureaucracy churning. He effected a survey of the site, and got a quote for disaster relief management from the local government’s official supplier, the Red Ants. When the official supplier was still not on site on Tuesday 16 October, after families had spent four nights out in the rain, he put in the official phone calls to give bureaucracy a little shove.

The Makause shack dwellers affected by the fire did, however, received one common or garden Pep Stores-type blanket per familial unit, and a fair-sized bag of mealie meal. Mokgosi got a quote for R93,879,00 from the Red Ants to supply building materials, reconstruct the shacks and to provide food parcels and blankets.

By Wednesday morning the hammers were hammering, but the materials being used to rebuild the shacks weren’t exactly new. The Red Ants, by Mokgosi’s own admission, are Ekurhuleni’s “official service provider appointed through council supply chain management policy. They both assist council to demolish, relocated (sic), construct shacks as well as to monitor land invasion as and when requested,” Mokgosi wrote in response to the Daily Maverick’s questions.

The next question Daily Maverick asked was whether it was true that “[i]n this instance the Red Ants demolished shacks in a nearby area, and used that material to rebuild the shacks in Makause.” Mokgosi’s response was a challenge to the Daily Maverick to prove the allegation, which was made by the local community.

He added: “Red Ants are allowed to reconstruct shacks with used material.”

Nonetheless, it is not difficult to raise ethical queries around a supplier that’s ruthlessly evicting people, knocking down shacks and carting off the building materials. Who then restores shacks or builds shacks, and can use “recycled” material. But then, Google the word Ekurhuleni and you’ll hit a number of links claiming ethics aren’t enshrined on the metro’s mantle.

Furthermore, members of the Red Ants where arrested for theft late last year during evictions in Germiston for-theft and were alleged to have attacked residents with crow bars.

But let’s get back to why Campbell, the ward councillor for Makause, was the last to know about the fire. Moyo’s story is that this is because she (together with the ANC-led metro) wants to evict people off Makause so that a mall can be built on the site.

“The last time Tania was in Makause was when she came to assert her working relationship with a mob group who endorse and support the relocation of the community. But this land can’t be developed because there’s a legal case,” says Moyo. “She is not even aware of the litigation, nor is she in possession of all the documents in this regard. She knows nothing. The ANC wants her to push for the evictions to go through, so people will see they are evicted by the DA, that it was her ward, the DA that evicted them.”

In her response, Campbell says: “Every month I hold a ward committee meeting, on which there are two representatives from Makauwse (sic). They regularly update me on this area of the ward and highlight any problems that residents in the informal settlement experience.”

Campbell says she visited the informal settlement in June, July and August. “There are also regular meetings with the Customer Care Centre Officials, myself and leaders of the community. Obviously I am kept abreast of any volatile situations that may arise by the EMPD (Ekurhuleni Metro police department) and Primrose SAPS.”

“On 17 April, before the State of the City address by the Mayor, the DA Caucus leader, Shelley Loe, and I visited residents in Makause so that Loe could tell the Mayor exactly what residents in the worst affected informal settlements wanted to see happen in their community this year. These concerns were related in detail in Loe’s speech to the Mayor later that month,” Campbell says.

The DA ward councillor says Moyo is “a leader who was banished” from Makause. Moyo says that Campbell’s view has been tainted by the ANC and the police, both of whom don’t look very kindly on him because he’s non-partisan and won’t support either party.

“We are a non-political structure, but the DA has turned against us. The ANC has turned against us. It is because we refused to partner or be inspired by them. We refused to work with either,” explains Moyo, who is part of the Makause Community Development Forum (MDF) which is the organisation opposing the eviction of people at the informal settlement.

“The ANC says [the] MDF is working with the DA. But the DA says the MDF is working for the ANC. But both the ANC and DA are supporting the evictions of our community. These allegations are being used to divide and confuse the community,” he says, adding: “We are resisting so we are being labelled, and they want us to be overthrown and not to be supported by the community.”

Campbell and Mokgosi respond individually to these allegations of in-fighting between the DA and ANC, but the answer’s remarkably similar. They both claim that there’s no such thing as political in-fighting in Germiston.

Moyo has been threatened by the police, meanwhile, who have locked his community offices. The threat is that if he doesn’t desist from “running to the media” or making allegations of police brutality against the SAPS, Makause will be another Marikana. (Read DM’s story: Police to people of Makause: ‘March and there’ll be another Marikana’.)

Moyo and members of the community will be marching to the Germiston police station on Thursday 18 October at 12h00 after weeks of trying to get approval for this march. Meanwhile, Campbell is requisitioning reports from all and sundry to get to the bottom of why she wasn’t informed of the fire and why the emergency response from the municipality was so inadequate. Mokgosi’s waiting for Daily Maverick to prove community allegations against the Red Ants, and requisitioning a further quote from them because there was another fire.

And Moyo? Well, he’s sorting out the march, trying to get the media there so no one gets hurt. Mostly he’s phoning aid organisations to bring blankets, clothes and food to supplement the appalling municipal response, so that another lot of families won’t be left out in the rain and cold.

So, dear reader, you tell us who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys. Who’s telling the gospel and who’s telling lies. Whatever your answer, the reality is that in Makause politics, like greater South African affairs of state, the truth is exceedingly hard to find.

M&G: Jo’burg sends in Red Ants in defiance of ConCourt

http://mg.co.za/article/2012-01-18-joburg-sends-in-red-ants-defiance-of-concourt

Jo’burg sends in Red Ants in defiance of ConCourt

Farnaaz Parker

Illegal occupiers of private properties are still being evicted without the promise of alternative accommodation despite a landmark Constitutional Court decision that holds municipalities responsible for ensuring they are not left on the streets.

In December last year, the Constitutional Court ruled that when the unlawful occupiers of a private property are evicted, the city is obliged to provide temporary emergency accommodation.

Despite the ruling made in the so-called Blue Moonlight case, residents of a the “New Doornfontein” Chambers building in Van Bleek Street, Johannesburg, on Wednesday found themselves out on the street with no prospect of alternative accommodation.

About 100 people were left standing in the street, holding onto the few belongings they’d managed to grab during an eviction allegedly carried out by the Red Ants.

Osmond Mngomezulu, a lawyer for the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, said that as a result of the Blue Moonlight case, there is an obligation on the city to provide alternative accommodation to those evicted. “It applies to the poorest of the poor, those who would become homeless if evicted,” he said.

That seems to be the case with many of the people evicted from the building on Wednesday yet it is unclear why the city did not come forward to help the residents.

Tentative agreement

Renney Plit, chief operating officer of Afhco, the company which owned the building — referred to as both Platinum Mile and “New Doornfontein” Chambers — said the eviction came after a six-year legal battle.

Court documents show that the eviction was approved by the high court in August last year. There was a tentative agreement with residents that they would leave by December, he said, and some of the blind residents, who were living in the building, were helped with finding alternative accommodation. But others refused to move and, according to Plit, notices were posted informing residents of the impending eviction, which was carried out on Wednesday morning on the orders of the sheriff of the court.

Some of the people evicted told the Mail & Guardian they knew the eviction was pending, while others claim they were never informed about it.

Oteka Khuzwayo, one of the people evicted from the building, said he heard about the eviction by happenstance. “Around 4 o’clock I heard someone say they saw Red Ants coming into the flat [then] around six o’clock they just kicked in our door and entered. We didn’t even get a chance to take our property. I just took the clothes I am wearing, my son and my wife. My other things, I left inside,” he said.

Khuzwayo said he had been living in the building for over 10 years. In addition to his possessions, he also lost his money and his identity documents, a complaint echoed by others who had been evicted.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has done work providing healthcare to residents in many of the city’s hijacked buildings, was on the scene following the eviction. The organisation said it would provide medical assistance to those who needed it and distribute blankets to the residents, many of whom spent the night on the street.

‘Inhumane’

Jens Pederson, project coordinator for MSF in Johannesburg, said putting vulnerable people on the street was inhumane. Among the displaced were children and people with chronic conditions such as TB, asthma and hypertension.

“We are concerned when people are abruptly evicted without the opportunity to remove their belongings, which includes medications,” he said. “There are people with chronic conditions who have now lost their medication.”

Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon, a researcher with the African Centre for Migration and Society, who has done research into the many hijacked buildings in the city centre, said it’s likely that many of the people evicted on Wednesday would simply move into other illegal buildings. “The cycle will just continue,” he said.

“The reason people are staying in buildings like this is because they can’t afford formal accommodation. Many of them would move into formal accommodation if it was affordable,” he said.

Wilhelm-Solomon said there’s a chronic lack of affordable accommodation in the inner city for the “lowest rung” of people in the city, those working in the informal economy or begging.

“Even in affordable housing, the basic minimum you could [pay for] a very simple room in a warehouse in this area is around R1 000 and that’s more than many families can afford,” he said.

“There really needs to be affordable, formal accommodation at a lower cost which may take government subsidies. These are complex issues that take a long time [to solve].”

The City of Johannesburg could not be reached for comment by the time this story was published.

M&G: Dreaming of a home in a defunct factory

http://mg.co.za/article/2011-02-18-dreaming-of-a-home-in-defunct-factory/

Click here to see a slideshow.

Dreaming of a home in a defunct factory

Kwanele Sosibo

At first, I thought the photographer and I were lost, or the story was further inside the unassuming block of flats. Even more confusing, the tall, dark and stony-faced fellow hawking fruits and vegetables outside knew the man we were looking for, but was hesitant to usher us in.

The real 7 Saratoga Avenue maintains a facade of normality by day that is quickly shed when night falls. The place we were looking for is, in fact, a much uglier sibling tucked further away from the road, with a misnomer of an address for the convenience of those who walk the corridors of power.

The residents of this defunct carpet factory lived faceless lives for years, paying rent to bogus landlords like others of their ilk in Jo’burg’s inner city, but these days they are commanding national headlines and casting an embarrassing spotlight on Johannesburg’s running battles with the poor.

Those headlines have to do with the city’s appeal — which will be heard on February 18 in a landmark case — against a court ruling last year’s that found its housing policy to be constitutionally invalid.

The city is also appealing against an order to provide the occupiers of 7 Saratoga Avenue with temporary shelter or pay towards their rental. Meanwhile, the occupiers, represented by the Wits’ Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), are cross appealing against the eviction order served on them.

Back at “7 Saratoga Avenue”, as it is referred to in court papers, nightfall comes with the constant flicker of the billboard on top of the Ponte building to the right and, to the left, soft patches of light from the windows of the neighbouring Agin Court and the beckoning crimson glow of Hillbrow’s red-light district. The factory complex is a giant dark shadow in a city of beaming lights.

Formerly known as Kernel Carpets, this industrial haunt consists of a large garage area, which has now been filled with shacks along its perimeter, and a double-storey building that has been subdivided into smaller rooms. There are a few additional brick buildings on either side that have also been turned into housing space. A stretch of sloping, weather-beaten concrete separates the two wings.

Whereas sunset seems to bring out the freaks everywhere else in this city of the depraved, here it ushers in a sudden blackness only heightened by the paraffin lamps voyeuristically peeping out of broken and patched up windows.

Stop the untidiness

The sudden loss of light quickens the daily trolley march towards the corner of Leyds and Banket streets, where a generous urban oasis (an open manhole) supplies residents with their daily rations of water.

This quotidian ritual is better executed under a blanket of darkness when one is less likely to be noticed by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), disturbed by the traffic or confronted by the adversarial taxi washers who hog this everflowing source like jealous spouses.

A week ago, Busisiwe Mdlolo, whose late father once worked this yard during the factory’s heyday, had her trolley confiscated by the JMPD, along with several 25-litre plastic drums she used to collect water. She watched in dismay as they spilt their contents down the street and waved her off empty-handed.

But repossesed trolleys rank low on the list of the indignities visited on Mdlolo and her neighbours over the past decade.

A native of Nkandla, Jacob Zuma’s home village in KwaZulu-Natal, Mdlolo moved into the ramshackle brick and concrete ensemble in 2002. Then, she shared a room with her father who had remained in the yard after the factory shut down in the 1990s.

“In the ensuing years, we paid rent to quite a few landlords, into various accounts,” she recalled. “Eventually, someone came to collect the cash by hand. That’s when we saw that it was all just crookery and started withholding payment.”

All the while, nobody bothered to maintain the property. Complaints to the Rental Housing Tribunal against Northwest Estate Agents and two other entities who independently claimed rent from them amounted to nothing.

Back then, the premises had electricity and a functioning tap. Today, there is a stagnant pool of water where the tap once stood. Above it, on a dark brick wall, fading, graffiti in large block letters reads: “Yekani ubunuku [Stop the untidiness]”. Ironically, it now stands as a memento to much simpler times — before rainwater had to be siphoned off rusty gutters and collected in repurposed refuse bins.

Evicting the undesirables

It was after Blue Moonlight Properties 39 bought the premises in 2005 (it still remains unclear from whom), that the heavy-handedness began.

In 2006, Blue Moonlight launched an application for the eviction of residents, opposed by residents on the grounds that the city first had to “discharge its constitutional obligation to provide them with temporary, alternative accommodation pending ultimate access to formal housing as part of the national housing programme”.

The occupiers then brought the city to the proceedings and sought an order compelling the city to fulfil its obligation. This seems to have frustrated the owners’ plans for the property considerably. Blue Moonlight Properties’ representatives declined to comment on the issue, citing the ongoing case. Questions sent to the department of housing were not answered at the time of going to press.

The residents are less inhibited.

As Dlozi “Mranger” Thwala put it, the compound became “the police’s playground” soon after that. He said unlawful raids and illegal eviction attempts coincided with the disconnection of electricity and water.

Mranger, dressed in a tucked-in white shirt and black cotton slacks, periodically picked up a metal iron from a blazing primus stove with a folded cloth and pressed his pants on an ironing board.

The only light in this upstairs room came from two paraffin lamps placed on a dressing table positioned near a wall, giving the air inside a slightly toxic tinge. Aside from framed family pictures on a bedside table, the only picture adorning the room was a square poster of a smiling Nelson Mandela, head encircled by a greenish shweshwe design.

Mranger said that when he googled “Saratoga Avenue” he was disappointed to find a report that quoted Tokyo Sexwale accusing them of hijacking the building.

“It’s clear that whoever briefed him fed him nonsense,” he said. “The article said that we had hijacked the building and the High Court judgment had ruled in favour of the hijackers. How can you hijack a building when the people that bought it found you living there? He has never even been here to assess the situation himself. You see the politicians that we have? We vote them into power, then when they get fat, they forget about us.”

Perhaps what influenced Mranger to be a more assertive leader was the illegal eviction the people of Saratoga Avenue almost suffered in 2007. This time, the police arrived in the company of the notorious Red Ants. As the Red Ants proceeded to break windows, kick down doors and tear down rows of shacks, the residents, realising that the matter was already before the court, called their legal representative, who rushed to the scene and demanded a court order, which the evictors failed to produce.

According to several accounts, the Red Ants scurried off, one even leaving his hard hat behind in his haste.

“I decided to put up a fight because I am not an animal,” Mranger said. “If someone treats you like an animal, you have to show them your humanity. We have fought many battles here with charlatans who wouldn’t show us their title deeds. We’ve even battled the owners, even though we couldn’t afford to buy the cops like they could.

“I will rest only once I know that these people have decent alternative accommodation. We want government to give us what we fought for.”

Place of darkness

In 1995, with her daughter Thembeka strapped to her back, Nelisiwe Chamane took the train to Protea Glen to register for an RDP house.

“Thembeka is 16 years old now,” said Chamane on the stoep opposite her room. “If you look at some townships [around Jo’burg], there are rows of newly occupied RDP houses. How some people got in before me, I can’t tell you.”

Chamane’s nickname for this abode, where she ekes out a living making beaded, Zulu-inspired ceremonial dress and accessories, is simply KwaMnyamandawo [place of darkness].
“You should see this yard in winter. It is dotted with braziers from people trying to keep warm.” The building could easily burn to the ground if a fire started, she said, as there would be no water to put out the flames.

Although the term kwaMnyamandawo is reductive and unassailably pessimistic, she utters it with perverse endearment. It is from this dark abyss that people beat the odds daily, raising children, sending them to school, sending money back home, hopping from job to job — basically doing whatever it takes.

Perhaps Themba Koketi, who functions as a spokesperson for this community, is the perfect embodiment of this place’s limited but compelling pulling power. A public servant based in Soweto, his diminutive frame and boyish manner disguise his brooding seriousness.

Koketi grew up in Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal and arrived in Johannesburg in 2001 after matriculating. Growing up in a large, matriarchal family with five siblings and five cousins, he had plans to join the navy and was about to enlist when his grandmother begged him not to, citing the recurring nightmares she was having about him.

He tried various other jobs, but soon found himself at a dead end. Though still staying with his taxi-driver cousin, he decided to apply for financial aid at Wits University and studied psychology and sociology.

“During the holidays, I would stay here. I avoided going home because of the expectations they have of people living in Jo’burg,” he said.

“You are always expected to come back bearing gifts. I think they have never got their heads around the whole school thing.”

He got involved in committee meetings, at which residents locked heads with a succession of people claiming to represent the owners.

“I could see that we were being taken for a ride,” he says of the various rent collectors.
While he does have a measure of sympathy for Blue Moonlight Properties and its business aspirations, he said that in its haste to throw them out, it forgot one crucial fact: “Most of us here were raised in mud houses, where there was no electricity or running water anyway. We are used to living like this.”

Koketi spoke to us with his nine-month-old son balanced on his lap; his partner prepared dinner. It was a cramped room, with space for a bed, a small table with chairs and not much else. It was only later, after taking a closer look, that I realised that the room had been subdivided, with Koketi’s three teenage brothers living in the middle section and somebody else on the far end. After the interview, he told me that he is helping all three of them with their education.

Although others have found strength in numbers, there are many youngsters toughing it out alone in these harsh environs.

A double-edged sword

Mlungisi “MaKelloggs” Ntuli, an aspiring actor with a jocular demeanour and relaxed hair, was among those who were slapped around on the morning of the botched eviction.

Then a recent arrival from Jeppe Men’s Hostel, Ntuli had moved into the enclave with his brother so that he could focus on his “schoolwork” (as he referred to his budding acting career).

“As you know, they don’t take too kindly to books in the hostels,” he told me, seated in his dim shack with a newspaper on his lap.

“I had slept quite late that day, because I was busy reading a script until two or three that morning, and they arrived around five. So my movements were still a bit slow.”

For MaKelloggs, whose talents have taken him all over the country, but have yet to catapult him out of Saratoga, living here is a confusing, double-edged sword.

“I’m not ashamed of living here because I’m confident of my abilities,” he said.

“But if you bring friends here, they tend to think that this is a thug’s hideout or something, and they never come back.”

At least he can still walk to Troyeville, where he volunteers at a day-care centre as a speech and drama teacher or trek around town to auditions, while stretching out his groceries for as long as possible.

In a country where the poor are increasingly marginalised, the paranoia cuts both ways. For every heartfelt smile and joke shared, there were behind-the-back comments about us being self-serving and pretending to care.

What struck me as odd, though, was the general lack of enthusiasm about the outcome of this Friday’s Supreme Court of Appeals proceedings. But then, I suppose, in a community of about 80 people, it’s hard to get everyone interested in legal technicalities. Most people were more concerned about the probability of receiving an RDP house and where it would be situated.
“Most of the women here have applied for houses,” Mdlolo told me.

An air of overconfidence hung in the air, no doubt influenced by the CALS’s recent track record in housing-related matters.

Perhaps Koketi captured it best: “Whichever way the court rules, it will still be a victory for us because we are prepared to go all the way to the Constitutional Court.

“Similar cases preceding ours were won at the ­Constitutional Court. It has a good record of protecting human rights. The judges [presiding over the Occupiers of 51 Olivia Road, Berea Township, vs City of Johannesburg and 197 Main Street vs City of Johannesburg and others] went to San Jose [a condemned building in Hillbrow], so they based their judgment on research. They don’t just swivel in their chairs stroking their chins.”

Indeed, the frequent courtroom spankings meted out by judges on the city’s scarred areas are starting to take on a masochistic tint.

Morgan Courtenay, an attorney at CALS, put it differently: “We realise that such matters have huge financial implications for the city. It is our hope that it, through engagement with us and similar organisations, may forge an informed path.”

Sowetan: Uproar over demolishing of houses

http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2010/10/11/uproar-over-demolishing-of-houses

Uproar over demolishing of houses

11-Oct-2010 | McKeed Kotlolo |
Mon Oct 11 17:54:40 SAST 2010

POLICE fired rubber bullets and used water cannon to disperse angry Robega villagers in Phokeng outside Rustenburg on Friday.

The standoff follows the demolition of the villagers’ houses and alleged continued harassment by tribal leader Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi at the weekend.

Six Robega families had their dwellings demolished by Red Ants, on orders by the Royal Bafokeng Administration (RBA) under Molotlegi, for allegedly squatting on the Bafokeng land.

During the Friday protests the villagers said they were tired of being harassed by Molotlegi, whom they claim had cut off their water supply.

Eight villagers – four men and four women – were arrested for public violence and were released on warning a day later, according to local leaders.

Police said the eight were expected to appear in court today but the leaders said they would appear in the Tlhabane magistrate’s court on November 10.

Colonel Junior Metsi of the North West provincial police also confirmed that the police used rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse a group of about 600 villagers, who had blocked the main road on Friday. This was after their villages were left without water the previous day.

She said the villagers believed that Molotlegi was responsible for the closure of the water supply. But even after officials explained that the closure was due to a burst pipe during construction work at the mine, they insisted on marching to the mine.

After the shootings family representatives told Sowetanthat they were not squatting since the sites were allocated to them by the village council. They said they did not receive any warning from the RBA and were now accommodated at the local satellite police station and the homes of local leaders.

But Kgosana Modisaotsile Mokate o f the RBA said the land on which Robega village was erected “belongs to RBA and was allotted to the Bafokeng in 1996”.

M&G: Evicted shack dwellers seek legal recourse

http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-07-02-evicted-shack-dwellers-seek-legal-recourse

Evicted shack dwellers seek legal recourse
KARABO KEEPILE | JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – Jul 02 2010 14:18

Evicted shack dwellers from Gauteng and Ekurhuleni — accused of illegally occupying council land — are now seeking legal recourse after their shacks were demolished recently. Their legal reprentatives believe they stand a good chance of winning the case because an eviction without a court order is unlawful.

Shack evictions across the country

In the lead up to and during the Soccer World Cup, South Africa experienced a string of shack demolitions.

While Durban’s Moses Mabhida stadium was being completed, thousands living in informal settlements around the area were threatened with eviction.

Residents living at an informal settlement on Durban’s Kennedy Road claimed an armed gang of about 40 men attacked residents, killing at least two people and destroying 30 shacks.

Residents, now living in Blikkiesdorp in the Western Cape — a temporary relocation area — said they were forcibly evicted from their former homes before being transported to the area.

They blamed the Soccer World Cup for the evictions.

On June 28 2010, Johannesburg shack dwellers living in Sandown claimed that 55 shacks were burnt by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).

The JMPD said it had the authority to demolish the shacks but denied setting them alight.

Evictions in Kliptown

Eight shack dwellers from Kliptown’s Freedom Charter Square informal settlement in Soweto have sought legal representation from the Socioeconomic Rights Institute (Seri) of South Africa, after their shacks were demolished by Johannesburg metro police officers on June 28.

The institute, which is a new NGO set up to provide legal assistance with housing, basic services, and migrant rights, said the shack dwellers had their affidavits taken on Tuesday before an urgent application was filed in the South Gauteng High Court on Wednesday. The shack dwellers want the city of Johannesburg and the metro police to restore their possession of their land and reconstruct their homes.

The eight shack owners said they had received notices from the Department of Housing’s implementation and monitoring unit, stating they had illegally occupied council land. The notices, dated June 21, were pushed under the doors of many of the shacks and gave residents seven days to vacate their premises.

The unit is responsible for ensuring that plans drawn up by the city’s housing department are implemented, such as the upgrading of informal settlements and the redevelopment of hostels.

Zoleka Ton was one of the eight Kliptown shack dwellers the M&G spoke to this week.

The Freedom Charter Square informal settlement is dusty and overpopulated. Used condoms and dead rats litter the ground between the streams of raw sewage. Longtime residents claim the informal settlement has been around since the signing of the Freedom Charter in 1955.

Ton arrived in Kliptown in 2001 from the Eastern Cape, looking for work.

“I came to live with my mom but after I had a child I decided to move.”

Ton and the father of her child built a shack in the informal settlement they call home.

She said she had refused to accept the eviction notice from an official because it did not have an official stamp but a Soccer World Cup logo instead.

“I asked them where they expected me to go but they said it wasn’t their problem.”

Ton and her child have now squeezed into her mother’s tiny shack nearby.

Zoliswa Mdleleni, also from Eastern Cape, is Ton’s neighbour.

‘I am scared to build again’

Mdleleni and her boyfriend built their two room shack when they had nowhere to live.

Mdleleni, pointing to a dusty patch which used to be their dining area and bedroom, told of how she had been planning on buying more furniture for the room.

She was was on her way to the informal settlement’s spaza shop when residents warned her to lock her shack and leave.

“I ran back so I could collect my stuff,” she said, only to find armed metro police and over a dozen men demolishing the dwelling.

Mdleleni is currently unemployed and now lives with a woman she has come to know in the area.

“I don’t know what to do and I am scared to build again because they may bring it down again,” she said.

Ekurhuleni shack dwellers evicted

Evicted shack dwellers from Gabon informal settlement in Daveyton, Ekurhuleni, gathered outside Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg on Thursday to consult with a legal team about the evictions.

General Moyo from the Informal Settlement Network in Ekurhuleni said they were signing confirmatory affidavits.

On May 15, the Informal Settlement Network’s Gauteng provincial leadership met with residents of the Gabon informal settlement in Daveyton, Ekurhuleni, after they were served a “24-hour notice for eviction for having illegal structures”, said Benjamin Bradlow, a research and documentation officer from Shack/Slum Dwellers International.

According to Bradlow, on May 11, “Red Ants [security guards known for the colour of their overalls] and other unknown people destroyed about 350 shacks and stole many residents’ belongings”.

Also gathered at Constitutional Hill this week were evicted shack dwellers from Chris Hani Informal settlement.

Chris Hani community leader Mdumiso Langeni said 20 shacks had been demolished by the police on May 17.