Artists occupying Mthubi The Hub in Hatfield were forced out of the premises on Saturday.
Spokesperson Keneilwe Chuene said an unknown group of intruders arrived in the morning started harassing the artists.
“They slapped us around, moved into the house and started removing furniture outside,” she said.
“Items such as laptops, a sound system, art works and musical instruments were also taken to the pavement.”
The hub, a formerly abandoned house in Arcadia Street, was made available to city artists by the provincial government last year, Rekord East reported.
Chuene said the invading group of about 40 people insisted that the artists get out, saying they needed to use the building.
“They told us we had no right to be here and accused us of allowing the house to be used for prostitution.”
She said the artists believed that goods worth R500 000 were stolen by the mob.
“Artists were attacked and forced out of the hub.”
One of artists, Amanda Mdinji, said chaos reigned as this happened.
“The mob ransacked the house throwing furniture, artwork and personal property out on the street causing damage to a lot of the items,” she said.
“Members of the mob also verbally harassed and intimidated the artists.”
Mdinji said all this happened with the Sunnyside police purportedly standing guard to prevent violence between the two groups.
She said the police should have acted against the intruders.
“This was an illegal eviction, executed with no court order or legal mandate which turned violent,” said Mdinji.
“The mob began punching, pushing and pulling the eight artists who were there by the hair.”
She said the artists pleaded with the police and the attackers bring an end to this.
“Arguments just grew more intense. The mob accused us of using the house for prostitution and drugs but no evidence of that was found and no charges were filed.”
Mdinji said the invaders refused to identify themselves.
“This makes us very suspicious.”
“They crushed my dreams, they stripped our artwork down, literally that’s what they did,” said artist Sallie Maloka.
“They manhandled us. Especially the men were very physical and threatening toward the ladies.”
Police spokesperson Captain Daniel Mavimbela said the police were responding to two complaints.
“One was that the artists were in possession of drugs and second was that the house was being invaded.”
Mavimbela said the police had previously made drug-related arrests at the house but none were found on Saturday.
Mavimbela claimed Mdinji had in fact praised the way the police had handled the fracas.
“If any person is not happy with service provided by the they should feel free to contact my office or that of the station commander,” he said.
Mavimbela said the police were in discussion with the owners of the house used by the artists for a permanent solution.
“We were informed that initially the house was invaded by the current occupants [artists].”
But the artists disputed this claiming the Gauteng infrastructure department had given them permission to use the house last year.
The department’s Theo Nkonki said he did not know if the house belonged to the department or that the artists had permission to be there.
He promised to investigate and revert to Rekord but at the time of going to press, he had not.
The hub, established in 2016 and registered as an NPO, hosts poetry sessions, yoga classes, reading and music shows, with a special focus on African arts and cultural practices.
Chuene underlined that the hub was about arts and culture – not drugs.
Hub deputy chairperson Izah Kutsh said the artists identified the abandoned building and occupied it to establish this hub for the city’s creative people.
“We have taken many strides to ensure that artists have a sustainable environment to produce and exhibit their works. We have informed the authorities of this progress.”
– Caxton News Service