Category Archives: Alfred Moyo

Makause: The activist’s fear of the police and the sunset

Makause: The activist’s fear of the police and the sunset

As you read this, General Alfred Moyo, an activist from Makause informal settlement, is hopefully still alive. He spends days in worry and nights in fear for his life. His harassers: the Primrose station police. His crime: standing up for Makause residents’ human rights. By MANDY DE WAAL.

General Alfred Moyo, a community activist from Makause in Primrose, Germiston, who was arrested by police on Friday 19 October 2012 and released on bail a day later, has fled the informal settlement. “I fear for my life. I don’t know what is going to happen. I am stressed and I am scared. I am uncomfortable during the day, but at night I just get scared.”

Moyo was arrested while holding a community meeting on an open sports field. “The police can do anything. They can even hire people inside the settlement to get rid of me. The community has seen everything and they can tell about everything that happened, so the only chance for the police now is to pay someone else to kill me.”

The “everything” happened on Friday afternoon, when Moyo was meeting with community members to discuss what to do when an on-again, off-again march to protest against Primrose police was cancelled a day after it had been approved.

The community has been trying since mid-September to gain permission from local authorities to march in protest against police brutality and the police’s alleged refusal to investigate residents’ cases, but have been thwarted at every turn. The march was given a verbal go-ahead by Metro police on 17 October, only to be banned by the Primrose police station the next day.

“Everyone had been mobilised and the pamphlets were distributed so we decided to have a mass meeting to address the community and discuss a way forward,” Moyo said, adding that the police arrived shortly afterward.

“We told the police we were discussing alternatives to the march and had decided to picket the station. But the police said we couldn’t have a picket there. They said the station was a sensitive area that they must protect it at all costs.” Moyo replied that he was well versed with section 17 of the Constitution and the right to picket or demonstrate.

He said police had been called in from as far as Springs and the surrounding catchment area to ensure the march did not go ahead. The Makause activist was then told to go with police to the station to talk to the station commander. Moyo and a handful of community leaders were negotiating with police when Nikki Pingo, a project manager for an NGO called Planact arrived on the scene. (Planact runs regular development, learning and support meetings for community representatives and civic movements.)

“General and a couple of others were speaking to the police. There were about three police vans parked at the edge of the sports field. Another police van arrived,” she said.

The police again told Moyo to go to the station to speak to the station commander, Lt-Col Thembi Nkhwashu.

Moyo and the Makause leaders were negotiating with police when an armoured police vehicle arrived. Law enforcement officers exited and pulled the community activist into the vehicle. The Makause members moved forward marginally, and Pingo said a policeman threatened the crowd. “The policemen pulled out a gun and pointed it at the crowd. He then threw teargas into the crowd and it dispersed.”

Earlier this month, Daily Maverick reported that the Makause community leader was verbally attacked and threatened by the police, who asked him why he wanted to bring the force into ill repute.

“The head of visible policing, Col Rackson Shuburi, asked us why we were applying to march against the police. ‘What is wrong with you that you want to challenge the code of conduct of the SAPS?’ he asked us. We told him our memorandum would list all our grievances,” Moyo said at the time. “Shuburi warned me that if we went ahead with the march there would be ‘another Marikana’. He was referring directly to the events at Marikana where the police shot and killed all those protesting miners. He said that the police were ready for us and that if we marched, Makause would be turned into another Marikana.”

The police drove away with Moyo in the Casspir. “We followed the police to the station to find out why General was taken, and when we got there General was taking off his belt, and said he had been arrested. The station commander was very angry with us and said we must leave the police station,” Pingo said, adding that she left the station to call the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (Seri), a non-profit rights-based organisation that has a public-interest law centre.

Moyo told Daily Maverick that when he arrived at the Primrose police station the station commander was in the boardroom with brigadiers and regional heads of police. He was called into the room. “I did not know the others. The only one I recognised was (Gauteng Provincial Commissioner Lt Gen Mzwandile) Petros.

“The station commander pointed to me and said: ‘This is the problematic General’. The police brigadiers said that the lady, the station commander, she must deal with me in her own way,” Moyo said. “I was then charged with intimidation because she said that I had intimidated her.”

A handful of people from Makause had gathered and were now standing outside the station. Nkhwashu picked out a young man and woman who were both wearing T-shirts in support of those slain in the Marikana massacre from the crowd. The T-shirts read: “Women demand justice for Marikana” and “Solidarity for the slain of Marikana”, as well as “An injury to one is an injury to all”.

“I went in to try and go to the bathroom to get water when I saw the two people were arrested,” Pingo said. The pair had been stripped of their Marikana T-shirts and forced to stand half naked in the station. As one, a shy woman, tried to cover her torso with a blanket, a policeman at the Primrose police station was alleged to have chipped in: “I don’t know why that woman is acting so shy. It is in our culture, it is natural to show breasts.”

Pingo challenged the station commander, asking why the pair had been arrested and exclaimed it was unacceptable that the young woman had been made to stand exposed. “She (Nkhwashu) told me to get out of the police station,” said Pingo.

There was another brief exchange in which Nkhwashu threatened to arrest Pingo, who then tried to run out the station. As Pingo exited the station, Nkhwashu ordered that she be arrested.

The police took the Marikana T-shirts saying that these would form evidence for a charge of incitement to cause violence. “They took my phones, my camera and my memory stick,” said Moyo. “They said they will make sure they will bring charges against me because they are in power. They can implicate me with anything to ensure I don’t get out and that I don’t even get bail”

As the charge sheets were being filled out Moyo said police listed his address as “no fixed address” and declared that he had no relatives so that he and the other Makause residents wouldn’t get bail.

Moyo, Pingo and the two other Makause residents were detained overnight because police said they couldn’t get a public prosecutor out on a Friday night. Charges levelled against the four include harassment, intimidation, malicious damage to property, resisting arrest and obstructing the police.

Seri obtained expert legal assistance, and the next day the four were released on bail of R1,000 each. “The police told the lawyer that we were all charged with public violence because this charge requires a prosecutor to get bail. With the other charges they wouldn’t need a public prosecutor, and so we had to stay overnight, ” says General.

The four appeared in the Germiston magistrates’ court on 22 October and waited some three hours for the dockets to be brought from the Primrose police station. After a short hearing, the case was postponed until 19 November.

“The charges are baseless, there is no evidence and it is shocking that the prosecutor is allowing police to go ahead with an investigation into these charges,” said Kate Tissington, a senior research and advocacy officer at Seri. “We’ve seen this before with activists. It is a common police tactic to try and crush activists, to tie them up in the legal system. To beat the fight out of them. The other thing is who can pay bail? So people just sit.”

Moyo is out, but no longer sleeps in the community at night because he fears for his life. His life now is about trying to find a place to stay while shuffling back and forth to try and support the community at Makause.

Daily Maverick called Nkhwashu, but she refused to speak to the media and referred the story to an SAPS spokesperson. The spokesperson, Col Mogale, said questions must be submitted by email and that it would take 24 hours to respond, outside of Daily Maverick’s deadline.

Police arrest Makause activists for wearing Marikana solidarity t-shirts

Note: The cellphones of the arrested comrades have also been confiscated as ‘evidence’

Police arrest Makause activists for wearing Marikana solidarity t-shirts

by Jayshree Pather

For the past month, the Makause Creative Youth Brigade (MCYB) and the Makause Community Development Forum (Macodefo) have been organising a march to the Primrose Police Station, to hand over a memorandum against the rampant police brutality experienced in Makause informal settlement. The planned march formed part of Makause campaigning on ‘One Makause, One Community Police Brutality Campaign’ under the Asihambi Land, Housing & Zero Evictions Campaign. The march was scheduled for Friday 19th October, however could not go ahead as planned due to the police’s refusal of permission at the last minute.

The organisers decided that a community meeting would be held instead at the convening point, the Makause Sports Ground, to discuss a way forward given the refusal of ‘permission’ of the march at such short notice. It was here that the police arrived in a number of vans, as well as a Casspir. During negotiations with the police it was decided that the organisers would go to the Primrose Police Station to discuss the situation with the police there. The police tried to get them to ride in the police vans, but the organisers refused and said they would ride in private cars. It was then that the police violently grabbed one of the organisers of the march, General Moyo, and threw him in the police van. They also threatened the peaceful crowd with guns and threw teargas.

General was arrested and taken to the police station. A number of people followed him there to see what was going on. In the police station a further two people were arrested for “intimidation”. The Station Commander later told Kate Tissington from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) and Advocate Michael Eastman, that the two MCYB members had intimidated her because of the fact that they were wearing “Remember the Slain in Marikana” and “Women demand justice for Marikana” T-shirts, and badges that said “Justice for Marikana”. The young woman arrested was made to take off her T-shirt and wait in the public police station in her bra, handcuffed. A staff member of the NGO Planact, Nicolette Pingo – who was trying to find out what was going on with the arrested comrades, was also then arrested.

All four were held in detention overnight at the Primrose police station, despite the efforts of SERI and Advocate Eastman to release them on bail. These efforts lasted till midnight, as no public prosecutor could be located to grant bail for the four. Macodefo and MCYB members stood vigil awaiting the release of those detained. On Saturday afternoon, after endless phone calls, a public prosecutor was eventually located and agreed to release all the detainees on R1000 bail each. He told the four accused that they should all have been released on Friday, and that there appeared to be no evidence for the charges against them.

On Monday morning the four were scheduled to appear at the Germiston Magistrate Court. After a three hour wait, the police eventually brought the case dockets from the police station, and the Senior Public Prosecutor agreed to drop Pingo’s charges. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he agreed that the state could further investigate the three cases against the Makause comrades. The case has been postponed till 19 November.

Daily Maverick: Shack flames highlight Makause’s 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.

Makause community to march against police brutality in Primrose

17 October 2012

Makause community to march against police brutality in Primrose

The Makause Creative Youth Brigade (MCYB) and the Makause Community Development Forum (Macodefo) are organising a march on Friday, 19th October 2012 against police brutality at Primrose Police Station (near Germiston in Ekurhuleni). The march forms part of the ‘One Makause, One Community Police Brutality Campaign’ under the Asihambi Land, Housing & Zero Evictions Campaign.

Date: Friday, 19th October 2012
Time: 12h30 pm
Venue: People will congregate at the Makause Sports Ground at the Makause Informal Settlement in Primrose and proceed to the Primrose Police Station to hand over a Memorandum to the Primrose SAPS.

The Makause community is uniting for a better, safer and crime-free kasi and demands:

· an end to police brutality
· an end to forced bribery/corruption
· proper investigation of un-attended to cases of crime
· an end to police politics and support of mob groups
· arrest of the mob group that attacked the Macodefo leadership and destroyed the community office
· an urgent response to reported crimes.

This march to Primrose Police Station is to say:

* Enough is Enough!
* Never and Never Again!
* An Injury to One is an Injury to All!
* Makause Cannot Be Divided by the Police!
* We Have a Right to Survive/Life!
* We Have the Right to Organize, Gather, Assemble, Picket & Demonstrate!

For more information contact:

General Moyo: 073 430 7006 /
Michael Dzai: 083 5023863

Daily Maverick: In the wake of the Makause shack fire, the destitute and forgotten

In the wake of the Makause shack fire, the destitute and forgotten

A compact informal settlement in Primrose, Germiston, Makause houses the poorest of the poor and unemployed, who have nowhere else to go. Their living conditions are desperate, but became more so when a woman poured petrol over herself and set her body aflame. The blaze raged through 18 dwellings, taking what little the people there had. Insult was added to injury by the way Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality responded to the disaster. By MANDY DE WAAL.

The two voices were raised so loudly on the morning of Saturday 13 October that everyone nearby in the informal settlement could hear the screaming. But overhearing the argument wasn’t difficult; in Makause settlement in Primrose, Germiston the shacks are wedged right up against each other. Space is at such premium there that you can’t even slide a hand between most dwellings.

The man had had enough. He packed his bag and walked out the shack, leaving the woman behind. She was hysterical and dragged a generator into her home. She had a lighter, and – it appeared to onlookers – she wanted to use it.

“When the man left, the lady started to show signs of trying to commit suicide. She took a generator and a cigarette lighter to set the shack alight,” eyewitness Eric Ndlovu told Daily Maverick at the scene. The subsequent shack fire razed 18 dwellings, leaving about as many families homeless.

“Some men came and tried to stop the lady from doing that, but the lady found a way of sending them away.” She asked the men to buy her airtime from the tuck shop in the settlement so that she could talk to her family. “That is when she got the chance to use the petrol in the generator and start the fire,” Ndlovu said.

The men came back to hear agonised screams coming from inside the shack. “The fire had already started and nobody could risk going inside to extinguish the fire. Even I tried but it was a no go. It was too dangerous,” he said.

Ndlovu described a blaze that was consuming shacks in minutes. “They caught fire so quickly, and just spread. You know petrol… when you extinguish it with water then you spread it around. People didn’t have enough water, or enough assistance in terms of extinguishing the fire.”

Watch: General Alfred Moyo speaks at the scene of Saturday’s shack fire about the government’s failure to supply adequate aid.

The community told Daily Maverick that the fire engine – situated across the road from the settlement – took twenty minutes to reach the scene of the unfolding disaster. When it did, they say it arrived with only a few litres of water. “After ten minutes they had run out of water and the fire still continued. It was really difficult, really terrible,” Ndlovu added.

When Daily Maverick phoned the local municipality to find out why there’d been such an inadequate response, Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management spokesperson William Ntladi said the claim that the fire engine didn’t have enough water was nonsense.

“It is not that we didn’t have enough water. The informal settlement… well, we know how clustered it is. The heavy vehicle couldn’t go deep inside, so we had to send a small vehicle and relay the water into the smaller vehicle to reach the fire. The streets in between the shacks are very narrow and don’t accommodate the bigger vehicle,” Ntladi explained.

This journalist explained to Ntladi that she stood at the scene of the fire and that the area was alongside the tar road, and nowhere near the inner locale of the settlement. “I was off duty, I just heard about it,” Ntladi confessed and referred the query to Rogers Mamaila, also with Ekurhuleni emergency services.

Mamaila said the fire engines carry 4,000 litres on board, which get discharged at 400 litres per minute. “It is not an endless supply. The supply is only for one delivery, and it depends on the crew to see how many deliveries are required.

“That informal settlement may not have fire hydrants to replenish the trucks,” he said, adding that when the emergency services arrived the eighteen shacks had already been burnt, but that the crew managed to save the others.

“Ekhuruleni have trained CERT (Community Emergency Response) members, who are trained to deal with own fires prior to our arrival. We went into that same informal settlement house-to-house and educated people on how to prevent fires. A month ago a man died in that same informal settlement and they blamed us for not responding quickly enough. We have said they must walk or run to us, and in the meantime make use of the CERT members who are trained on advanced fire fighting. There are four CERTs in attendance there,” said Mamaila.

Makause is a compact settlement that the local government says is home to close on 30,000 people. “From the municipality’s side we have done everything we could have done. The method in which those people have built that informal settlement is wrong. When they build shacks they must leave a space of between five to six metres but they say there is no space,” Mamaila said, and explained that it was the compact nature of the informal settlement that made the outbreak of fires such a disaster.

For twelve-year-old Mahlatse Tomolo, the explanations were academic. All she cared about was the fact that she had no uniform to wear to school and had lost all her books to the fire. “I came back at four or five in the afternoon and I saw the ambulance and the people who work with the fire. Everything was burnt. My clothing… my school uniform… everything was gone. All I have left with is the clothes I have on. Even my school books are burnt. I feel bad because we have nowhere to go to. This is my home. We need help to rebuild our shack,” the young girl said.

Sipho Mashala was out of his home in the late afternoon when the fire broke out, but was heading back home to cook food when he overheard people speaking about the fire. “I never believed what they said, but when I got here I saw it, and seeing is believing. My shack was on fire. My matric certificate, my ID – everything was gone. All I have is these clothes. Actually I am devastated. I don’t know what to do.”

Formerly from Bushbuckridge in Limpopo, Mashala came to Gauteng to find work. “I am going to have to go home and go back to the drawing board. I am not a criminal and I won’t resort to crime, so I will have to go back as soon as I have money. But now that my certificate is burnt, I am going to have to start from scratch. I am a married man and have a child to support. I am devastated.”

Rector Shabangu was sleeping when the blaze threatened his shack in the late afternoon. “My wife, she woke me up saying: ‘Man, come on. Wake up. There is a fire coming.’ I said: ‘Man. Hayi. Fokkof.’ I thought she was just playing, but she forced me to wake up.”

“When I woke up I found… well… it was terrible. I took some buckets of water and poured on the other side of my room so that it doesn’t go further. I climbed on top of the roof and those people who used to assist us they came. They gave me the pipe with the water and I used it to stop the fire,” the unemployed shack dweller said.

“When I was busy doing that I saw something like meat. I said what kind of meat is this? When I tried to go this side I saw a hand. Then I jumped away from that roof. I was afraid. I was shocked. It was so terrible. In my shack I had clothes, my bed, a fridge, and a cupboard. I have no means to replace this.”

Shabangu said the local government promised to help but little assistance was rendered by the time Daily Maverick was on the scene, two days after the fire. “Since they promised (local government) – they are still promising but nothing happened. I am sleeping around here on the ground,” he said, pointing to blackened ground adjacent a rubbish dump where people forage for plastic bottles, glass and scrap tin to sell.

“We have to make fire and sleep near the fire. It has been cold and I just hold my child in my arms. We have no place to sleep so this is what I must do,” Shabangu said, shaking his head while his wife scoured through the debris with her two-year-old child tied to her back. Shabangu has two children.

These people, who are in a desperate predicament, told Daily Maverick that all they’d received from local government was one blanket per family as a means of disaster relief. Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality’s Aubrey Mokgosi points fingers at “outsourced suppliers” for the delay.

“I heard about this fire only last night (Sunday) about midnight and only this morning we asked our service provider to go and do a survey and give us a quotation. We have now asked our service provider to help with rebuilding the shacks. I am not too sure if they have been on site or are preparing to do so,” Mokgosi said.

When asked who the service provider was, Mokgosi said they were the ‘Red Ants’ – which is an awful irony. Private security guards who got their name because of the bright red overalls they wear, the ‘Red Ants’ are notorious in Gauteng because of the brutal way they evict tenants and demolish shacks. They are often used by local government who don’t want to lose votes, and are especially feared in Johannesburg’s inner city where they evict the poor with impunity.

“The government seems to be promising but it doesn’t provide us. You must vote for the government but then the government doesn’t assist us. I told myself: ‘Why should I have to vote?’ I do vote but get nothing,” said a dejected Shabangu, who faces another night of sleeping in the dirt with his baby girl in his arms, his wife and other child huddled around a fire in a sprawling settlement that is not without criminal elements.

“The government is just working for its own benefit, so it is better that I just leave voting. I don’t see what the ANC is doing. Those people are just working for their own pockets.”

Shabangu’s voice is not alone, either – it is the voice of the everyman and -woman, of people in poverty who expected democracy to bring a better life, but now eat only bitter disappointment.