Johannesburg - With her eyes bulging, lips and mouth dry and her voice breaking, Queen Ngwira was on the verge of tears.
All around her – carelessly strewn on the ground – were mattresses, TVs, chairs, clothes and food, some of which were hers.
She had received a call on Friday morning while at work that the Red Ants were evicting people from Hopkins Mansions in Yeoville where she lives. She rushed home.
So confused was she that she alighted the minibus taxi without paying. As she ran to the flat she fell, hurting her knees. But she got up and continued sprinting all the way to her flat where she found that her door had been broken down and the Red Ants were throwing her belongings out.
Holding the few receipts she could find in the chaos, Ngwira maintained that she was up to date with her rent and could not understand why she was lumped with other residents who were said to be in arrears.
“I stay with my sister and we don’t owe, we have paid everything. I have proof. There is no honour in this building,” she kept saying as she waved the receipts around.
Another tenant claims that Red Ants members beat him up as he was trying to recover his belongings.
The man, who declined to give his name, said the road leading up to where his belongings had been dumped was cordoned off with tape.
“I kindly asked for a way in so that I may collect my property but I was beaten instead. I did not expect this kind of treatment,” he said.
The lawyer representing Ngwira and other tenants has accused Framework Properties, which manages Hopkins Mansions, of disregarding the court order and illegally evicting paying tenants.
Advocate Stanley Kabu said the eviction was questionable because the tenants and Framework had a matter that was pending before court and no eviction was supposed to have been effected before it was finalised.
While many tenants like Ngwira claim they were not owing rent, Framework’s lawyer Greg Vermaak said all of them were in arrears and some had not paid rent for over a year.
“They knew the eviction was eminent. They tried to stop it and went to court on Christmas Eve and also on January 7. They were given ample time to settle the amounts they owed and did not comply,” Vermaak said.