Durban families forced out onto the streets
DURBAN - MCARTHUR Street in Albert Park has resembled a tsunami-stricken area for the past two days, as furniture belonging to tenants that were evicted from a block of flats have been strewn on the street since Tuesday.
The area was no better yesterday, as the belongings were still blockading the road, with few people milling around.
Sthembiso Mlungwana, speaking on behalf of the tenants, said the building was owned by a family trust and run by an agent.
He said that they were being evicted for being in arrears with rent, electricity and water, and for being violent when dealing with building management (Madiba House), and for allegedly wanting to hijack the building.
He explained that there had been two other agents before the current one, which began running the affairs of the building from 2012, when the problems had begun.
Mlungwana said that tenants’ rent ranged from R5 545 to R7 000 – excluding lights and water.
“Some of us began struggling to pay the rent. We had been paying through the agent, with the electricity and water separate. With the previous agents, the cost of municipal bills for electricity would be about R300, but when this agent took over, the bill reached about R4 000.
“Mind you, mostly in June and December, some tenants go to their homesteads, but the electricity still was high. We complained about this, and since tenants were already in arrears with rent as well, we wanted to resolve the matter amicably where we could pay the money in instalments,” he said.
The tenant said they were also being accused of sub-letting. However, he denied this, saying they did not interpret it that way.
He said that some of the tenants stayed with children of relatives who were varsity students, and they would contribute to the rent as well.
Mlungwana said with the national lockdown, matters became worse as some tenants lost their jobs.
“In February, we took the matter to a tribunal authority, but even then, the trust and the agent wanted the matter to go before the high court as they had their own agenda. We believe they want to turn the building into student accommodation. They were accusing us of wanting to hijack the building in the long run. At the tribunal, we wanted to collectively make an arrangement, but before the process was even finished, the matter was in the high court.
“We had an advocate that we had appointed as tenants. The matter was postponed about five times, and a ruling was made in September. In the midst of the postponements, our advocate came to us telling us that we had been offered R10 000 each to leave and our debts would be quashed.
“I’ve lived here since 1995, and so have many others. When you live that long somewhere, it becomes home,” said Mlungwana.
He said tenants were unhappy with the judgment and ruling to have them evicted, as it should have had conditions attached for the landlord to find alternative accommodation for the tenants.
He said according to the agent, the tenants’ total debt in arrear rental, water and electricity equated to about R3 million.
Metro spokesperson Parboo said on Tuesday night police were called out to the building.
“The Disaster Management Act Regulation states that there are to be no evictions unless there is a lawful court order. On investigation, there appeared to be a lawful court order served by the sheriff of the court,” he said.
He said building management had told police that the evicted people have arranged a truck to remove their belongings off the street.
“Patrols would be in attendance monitoring the situation,” he said.
Efforts to reach the agent were futile as he did not answer his phone nor respond to Whatsapp messages he had read.