Johannesburg - A sea of belongings lies outside old warehouses in First Street, Wynberg, Joburg.
A toy leopard pokes its head out of a mound of blankets, squeezed between mattresses, refrigerators and stoves.
Small children from a crèche sit in the open deck of a bakkie as they watch their parents weave in and out of the piles, looking frantically for remnants of their homes.
The Red Ants evicted hundreds living in shacks on two plots of land in Wynberg.
About 600 workers cleared out the area, said Joburg East sheriff DJ Burger.
The eviction was carried out in terms of a 2011 warrant from the Randburg Magistrate’s Court.
The two plots are owned by Gayle Earl Philo, who asked that the tenants be removed, Burger said.
The residents were given no prior notice of the eviction.
The Red Ants arrived at about 10am, when many living in the shacks were at work.
As residents rushed home, they found their possessions strewn across the ground. Many items had been stolen, they said.
Viora Jakuja lived in a shack with her three children and a grandchild.
She lost R900 when the Red Ants removed everything from her home, she said.
“I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight.”
Many in the community denied the eviction was legal.
They had previously paid R350 a month in rent to Philo, but stopped several years ago when their living conditions deteriorated. There were too few toilets, no running water and no electricity.
Residents said they protested in 2010 and asked Philo for a meeting to air their grievances, but this had not been arranged.
Court documents show the eviction notice was issued in September 2011.
Burger said a previous attempt at eviction had been unsuccessful because the residents had protested.
The owner was entitled to evict unlawful tenants from his land, Burger added.
A security company would guard the homes overnight until the owner decides whether he wants the shacks torn down, Burger added.
More than 70 children were forced to evacuate their crèche next to the warehouse.
The crèche’s employees stayed to gather toys and furniture.
Philanthropist Linda Twala arrived with his wife Joyce to take the children to their crèche in Bramley View.
The children were asked to leave the crèche as the Red Ants dismantled a scrapyard, carrying large pieces of metal and removing abandoned vehicles.
“This is Protection Week for the little ones,” Linda said. “But not for these children.”
Men and women cried on the street about the cash they lost when their houses were dismantled.
Mbuso Sibanda said he lost his R3 000 savings and had nothing left.
He was at work when his neighbour called to tell him about the evictions.