Over 200 residents of an inner-city building were begging for justice after they claimed to have been unlawfully evicted and left to spend the night on the streets.
On Wednesday morning, Nozibele Siphofana, a 40-year-old mother of three, woke up to a nightmare as Red Ants were deployed to carry out an eviction at Fattis Mansions, in the Johannesburg CBD.
The unkempt building, which had been their home for the past six years, had been declared uninhabitable.
Through the building’s administrator, Jan van der Bosch, Fairvest, a company which owned 10 units in the building, managed to obtain an uncontested eviction order.
With nowhere to go and all their belongings strewn on the street, Siphofana said on top of being homeless, she and several others felt violated by the officers.
“The men in red were laughing and shouting and women were crying inside the building. People were saying their phones and money were taken. Some complained that they were in pain after being grabbed and sexually assaulted,” she said.
Her husband, Johannes Mpela, said that he was also robbed of his belongings in the chaos.
“All the men remaining in the building were running up and down moving their belongings. As we were trying to do that the Red Ants came running and stopped some of us on the stairs. They took my ID, my wallet with R800 and my cellphone.”
Several young women who spoke to The Citizen claimed to have been raped and/or sexually assaulted by the Red Ants, but were afraid to report this to the police.
They said they did not have faith that police would take them seriously if they reported this because they believed the Red Ants were protected by law.
Police spokesperson Kay Makhubela called on victims to come forward and open cases against the alleged perpetrators. Johannesburg Central sheriff Marks Mangaba was not immediately available for comment.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa stepped in yesterday and approached the High Court in Johannesburg in a bid to have the eviction rescinded and the residents returned to their homes.
The latter was refused, after the court pointed out that the building had already been declared uninhabitable.
Attorney Lindokuhle Ndabe said Van der Bosch had filed several applications to evict the residents over the past year and successfully had the body corporate declared null and void and the building declared uninhabitable.
Fairvest was one of 33 owners of units in the building, some of whom were also residents.
“There is a claim that there was a notice of eviction, but the eviction itself was not carried out lawfully because when it was before the court, certain questions were not asked,” said Ndabe.
According to the City of Johannesburg, residents were set to be taken with their belongings to a plot in Turffontein where they would live in tents. – firstname.lastname@example.org