Res­i­dents sleep on the street with be­long­ings

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

KITCHEN ap­pli­ances, cos­met­ics, pieces of bread and other house­hold items lay strewn across the road.

Old and young people went through the de­tri­tus, look­ing for doc­u­ments that had been thrown out by the Red Ants.

The Red Ants had evicted all the res­i­dents from Fat­tis Man­sion, al­legedly a hi­jacked build­ing that had been oc­cu­pied il­le­gally.

Yes­ter­day, the evicted ten­ants’ goods lay on Har­ri­son Street in the Joburg CBD, block­ing the road.

Ac­cord­ing to one res­i­dent, Nokubonga Khumalo, the ten­ants were told not longer than 24 hours be­fore their evic­tion that they would have to pack up and leave.

The Red Ants al­legedly ar­rived at the build­ing around 8am to re­move the res­i­dents.

An­other res­i­dent, who spoke to The Star on con­di­tion of anonymity, said he had not re­ceived an evic­tion no­tice but came home on July 18 to find all his fur­ni­ture out­side.

“I came back from work and found everything out­side. I couldn’t even go to work to­day,” he said.

Khumalo de­scribed how she had gone up­stairs to her apart­ment to find her iden­tity book.

But when she came back, she was met by a pla­toon of men in black and red uni­forms telling her to “get out now!”

“One was touch­ing me in­ap­pro­pri­ately. They take nyaope ad­dicts to act as Red Ants. I hear that one girl even got raped. I slept right here – in the cold,” said Khumalo, point­ing to the tar of the street, a wet towel and what re­sem­bled a kitchen ta­ble. “I would have gone to stay with my friend in Soweto but they robbed me of my money,” she added.

A mother of a child with hy­dro­cephalus (ac­cu­mu­la­tion of spinal fluid in the brain) be­moaned the “in­hu­mane man­ner” in which she was evicted, leav­ing her with­out shel­ter and re­sources to care for her child.

“It was dif­fi­cult to sleep out­side, es­pe­cially when you have a small baby,” she said.

Asked where the baby was, she pointed to a pile of clothes, mat­tresses and ap­pli­ances. “There,” she said. The woman also said she had a bath at a cousin’s place.

An­other res­i­dent said the evic­tion had not been con­ducted with dig­nity.

“We have people here who have been bru­talised, robbed and raped. I have been liv­ing here for 16 years, since 2001,” the man said. Ac­cord­ing to the man, this was the fifth evic­tion to have hap­pened at the build­ing since last year.

The lat­est evic­tion was done by court or­der, which was un­op­posed be­cause the res­i­dents did not have le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion or did not know about the court process.

Lin­dokuhle Md­abe, the lawyer for the evictees, con­firmed that the mat­ter was now in the hands of the court.

“They didn’t know about the evic­tion. We brought the mat­ter be­fore the court at 6pm on an ur­gent ba­sis to get the res­i­dents back in­side.

“We are mak­ing a sec­ond ap­pli­ca­tion to have set aside the court or­der that was granted against the res­i­dents, with­out them hav­ing been present in court,” Md­abe said.

“The judge or­dered that the res­i­dents must be timeously pro­vided with ac­com­mo­da­tion and that we bring an ap­pli­ca­tion to have the ex­ist­ing or­der set aside.”

The So­cio-Eco­nomic Rights In­sti­tute of South Africa (SERI) has lodged an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion to have the ten­ants al­lowed into the build­ing and to have the ex­ist­ing evic­tion or­der re­scinded.

But yes­ter­day, the judge pre­sid­ing over the mat­ter re­fused to let the res­i­dents move back, say­ing the build­ing was un­safe.

He said the city must pro­vide al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion for res­i­dents and next week SERI must ap­ply to have the ex­ist­ing evic­tion or­der set aside.

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