SCORES of residents were thrown out of their apartments in a morning blitz on rent defaulters in Pennyville, Soweto, yesterday.
The problems in the area in New Canada have been going on for some time.
Sporadic scuffles broke out between the Red Ants and some irate occupants, protesting against the removal of their goods.
“Kom hierso julle! Kom! Kom! Kom! Staan hierso, elke twee meters! (Come here. Stand two metres apart from each other),” yelled a Red Ant supervisor.
This was as he ordered the men to form a ring of security around the triple-storey apartments.
A burly woman sat at the corner, holding a stash of papers bearing the names of defaulters.
More and more Red Ants swarmed over the apartments, climbing up the stairs to remove the goods.
Three armoured police vehicles were located at three intersections along the main street, leading into the settlement.
A tearful Iris Louw, 30, watched helplessly as the Red Ants removed her furniture and possessions.
Within minutes her things had been added to the muddled heaps of mattresses, clothing and electric appliances, including refrigerators and washing machines.
As the temperature rose Louw’s one-year-old son, Caleb, found sanctuary among the piles of furniture.
In all, more than 150 residents were evicted yesterday.
Pennyville is a mixed-housing settlement, with different housing options for middle- and high-income beneficiaries.
It comprises about 1 600 RDP houses, 600 Joshco (Joburg Social Housing Company) communal units and more than 200 affordable rental units.
Most residents are former inhabitants of Zamimpilo informal settlement in Riverlea, about 15 minutes from Pennyville.
More than 1 600 families were moved from Zamimpilo to Pennyville in 2008.
Louw, like other occupants, admitted to having defaulted in her rent.
However, she cited the abysmal conditions of the apartments as reasons for her non-payment of rent.
“The toilets are blocked, the bathrooms are mouldy and the walls are wet and cracked because of leaking pipes,” the mother of three said.
“Our complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Now, they are evicting us. There wasn’t any warning. Now, I don’t have a place to go. Soon, my two kids will come home to find that they are homeless.”
The property owners, Diluculo Properties, Absa’s commercial property finance division, said they had obtained a court order from the Johannesburg High Court to execute the evictions on November 7.
The company’s attorney, Greg Vermaak, said concerted efforts to accommodate the residents had not borne any fruit.
He said the firm had, owing to “a full-blown rental boycott by a substantial number of tenants”, launched the Masihlalisane (Let’s live together in harmony) campaign.
In terms of the campaign, residents were to have the balance of their arrears cancelled if they resumed their rental payments for three years without interruption, signed a new lease and paid a portion of their arrears.
Their rent was to be reduced from R2 500 to R2 000.
“A lot of people signed the new leases. The evicted tenants are the ones who refused to sign and pay their rent. So we obtained the eviction order,” Vermaak said.
He denied allegations that the units were poorly maintained.
“Problems are solved. They are adequate, well-maintained and clean. A number of the complainants did not report any problems and they are complaining. It’s nonsense.”