The Times On Pretoria Eviction & Fire

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Sheriff issued 39 eviction orders — while 500 residents marched to complain of disrepair

“I don’t know where to go. With the damage this fire caused, the council will have an excuse to evict us also. Life is already hard enough and now it will be so much harder,” said the resident of Kruger Park block of flats.

Wood was among the thousands of people whose life was changed by the Tshwane Metro Council’s decision to evict tenants who had defaulted on their rent from the high-rise Schubart Park flats in Pretoria yesterday.

A policeman who lives in the Kruger flats, who asked not to be named, said he was asleep when police banged on his door.

When he reached the hallway, it was filled with thick smoke.

“We knew this place was unsafe. I don’t know how this [fire] started, but we all knew something bad was bound to happen. How many people must die before something is done about these conditions?” he asked.

Resident Samuel van Emmenis said he knew there was going to be trouble when he got home at 6am from his job as a security guard.

“I heard the Red Ants had arrived and some people were saying they were going to fight. I saw some guys running down the stairs with cans of petrol,” he said. “I phoned my daughter and she said I must be careful, so I left the building because I didn’t want to be there when the trouble started.”

Schubart residents were furious when Red Ants arrived to evict some of them, particularly as plans were being made for the renovation of the building and the relocation of residents.

Tshwane Mayor Gwen Ramokgopa had assured Schubart residents that everyone would be given ample notice of the move.

But yesterday’s evictions were aimed solely at defaulting tenants and were not linked to the renovation plans.

Tshwane metro planned to spend R200- million on renovating the building, which Ramokgopa described as “unliveable”.

“We don’t understand the city’s actions. The mayor was here seven days ago and she told us that in 14 days she will come back and sit and talk with us,” said Ntheko Manyatso, of the residents’ committee.

“We wonder now why police come with no warning. There are disabled people and small children that live here,” Manyatso said.

Later in the day, the residents obtained an interdict in the Pretoria High Court. Judge Ferdi Preller gave those opposing the evictions until Friday to prove that they were not aware that they were due to be evicted.

Judge Preller said he was reluctant to allow people who ignored eviction orders, issued because they failed to pay rent, to “enjoy the fruits of their illegal actions”.

The sheriff of the court, Collins Dry, said he had 39 eviction orders for blocks A, B, C and D.“ Everybody got the relevant papers. As far as I know, this has been coming for more than a year.”

But residents committee member Joyce Mashibini said: “This is not true. Most tenants stopped paying because they know this is the city’s building.

“The understanding is that this is an RDP flat. If the majority of people are not paying, why are only a few being evicted,” said Mashibini, who was adamant that it was an illegal eviction since “no letters or alternative accommodation were given”.

As scuffles broke out between the Red Ants and residents, who accused them of stealing cellphones and other belongings, the fire at the nearby Kruger Park flats broke out .

Last week, about 500 residents marched on the mayoral offices to hand over a memorandum protesting about the disrepair of Schubart Park. They were furious when Ramokgopa was not there to receive them and listen to their grievances.

The residents had demanded that the city provide alternative accommodation for them when renovations got under way at Schubart.

Yesterday, one Schubart Park resident, wheelchair-bound Ruby Visagie, mocked the Red Ants as they marched past her: “Voertsek! You are all rubbish!” she shouted.