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Johannesburg - Click, click! The picture had been captured. Then the photographer fell to his knees.
A Red Ants security guard had fired a rubber bullet, hitting The Star’s Motshwari Mofokeng below the right shoulder.
A split second before he fell to the ground, his camera had captured the smoke from the shot.
“At first I thought it was a stone, but I thought this was impossible because I was facing the Red Ants, not the demonstrators,” he said, narrating the events of Wednesday afternoon in the Joburg CBD.
“A bullet,” thought Mofokeng as he ran for cover.
The Star reporters were covering an eviction of illegal residents living in a building once used as a factory at 3 Hardy Street.
The call about the eviction came in around 11am.
“On arrival, we found desperate and angry residents who were devastated about the eviction, which they said had been sudden. I shared their pain,” Mofokeng said.
The evictees were emotional because alternative arrangements for accommodation had not been made.
“But my pain was physical. I had been shot in the chest, but (even) before that, I had been slapped twice. The guard had walked away from me as the pain intensified. We don’t know who he is, or what led to the incident. But I’m sure he’ll soon explain himself in a court of law.”
Johann Bosch, the head of Wozani Security company, said he wasn’t aware of the incident but would look into it.
“The guys know we accommodate the media because we do not want to hide anything. But I will definitely look into it and deal with it.”
Simultaneously, the team were confronted by the evictees’ belongings, which lay in heaps in the street. Mattresses were stacked on top of cabinets and placed next to a broken television set with the screen facing down.
A mother carrying a toddler on her back frantically searched through a pile of possessions.
“All I want is my ID. Without it my life is finished,” she said.
This was the scene after scores of residents who had been living in the dilapidated building since 2000 were evicted.
Infrequent scuffles broke out between the Red Ants and some of the incensed evictees.
Residents received a rude awakening when men dressed in red overalls and helmets stormed their building around 6am.
“They came into the building and told us they’re giving us 30 minutes to pack our valuables before they packed them for us,” said Fikile Jwara, a resident.
Sheriff Lutendo Mukwevho said residents had hijacked the building and had been notified numerous times to vacate it.
“The owner of the building wanted to renovate it after purchasing it, and offered the occupants an alternative place to stay,” he said.
Mukwevho added that a court order served to the occupants in January had stated that they had 15 days to leave the building. But they wouldn’t budge.
Kenneth Dube, the chairman of the 3 Hardy Residents Association, said the eviction was illegal.
“We were discussing the buying of the building with the municipality, but they didn’t tell us that they sold it,” said an irritated Dube.
* Krugersdorp firearms trainer Andre Pretorius, of the Professional Firearm Trainers’ Council, said that although rubber bullets – including the lighter ammunition fired from shotguns – were described as non-lethal, the more accurate description was “less lethal”, as they could cause serious injury or even death if used at close range.