Johannesburg - An agreement aimed at protecting human rights during evictions was signed by Gauteng's housing MEC and the so-called Red Ants on Monday.
The Red Ant Security and Eviction Services company and Jacob Mamabolo agreed that the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable Ä the elderly, children and the disabled Ä should be protected during evictions.
“This is a new chapter that we are trying to open and it is not going to be an easy task,” Mamabolo said in a statement.
The Red Ants, so-called because of their red overalls and red helmets, have been criticised for alleged use of heavy-handed tactics when carrying out evictions.
Mamabolo said the agreement would not stop eviction orders being carried out, but would ensure that those affected were not denigrated in the process.
The Red Ants agreed to give the department 48 hours' notice before carrying out evictions.
The working relationship between the department and the company prevented 350 families being wrongfully evicted in Jeppe, Johannesburg, recently.
“We intervened and realised that the eviction order that was being used was fraudulent, and the fraudster who allegedly acquired the bogus order to evict people from the building was arrested,” Mamabolo said.
The department asked the company to ensure eviction orders were valid.
Red Ants managing director Johan Bosch said in the same statement that his company had mistakenly been accused of violence in the past.
“We spend millions on training our staff to be compassionate and not retaliate when carrying out their duties.
“Our job is a difficult one as we have to deal with syndicates and criminal gangs who hijack buildings, more especially in the inner city.”
Bosch claimed there were imposters carrying out evictions wearing the same uniform as the Red Ants.