Police and red ants raided Clay Oven informal settlement in Lonehill East where the community claims that phones and money were stolen during the raid where shacks were broken down.530 Picture: Matthews Baloyi 4/4/2013

Johannesburg - Residents of the informal settlement known as the Clay Oven said the Red Ants had used crowbars to dismantle their shacks on Thursday.

The small community is nestled between Bryanston and Lonehill.

Residents said the early morning raid saw women and children being dragged out of their shacks half-naked into the pouring rain.

Police officers were in attendance, they said.

Once all the residents were out of their dwellings, the shacks were flattened.

“This was not a raid, it was a robbery,” Lerato Sefolo exclaimed, describing the Red Ants’ actions as “shocking”.

“They stole our money, cellphones and groceries. These people were not here to evict us, they were here to steal from us,” she continued.

Residents also claimed that the Red Ants had assaulted some of the residents while the police had looked on.

The “victims”, mainly men, showed their open wounds as proof of the alleged attacks.

“We understand and do not undermine the role of the police, and we also understand that the land is reserved and, as such, we can be removed at any moment, but the actions that were carried out against us cannot be justified,” said Sefolo.

Ntombi Mthombeni, a Clay Oven resident who runs a tuckshop in the area, claimed the Red Ants looted her shop and took the money and stock.

Mthombeni said: “If this was a properly organised raid, eviction letters should have been provided in time to warn us about this.”

She said police officers covered their name badges and faces to avoid being identified.

“They also threatened us and said we must not lie about the events that happened.”

Sefolo said about 85 people were arrested during the raid and released later with no charges being laid.

It is not clear who owns the land Clay Oven occupies and who ordered the raid.

Gauteng housing spokesman Motsamai Motlhaolwa said: “Our department did not order any eviction. Check if that is not privately owned land where possibly the owner got an eviction order.”

City of Joburg spokesman Gabu Tugwana also had no knowledge of the raid.

A police spokeswoman said: “The only thing we can confirm was that a raid took place at Clay Oven, but we are not aware of any wrongdoing by members of the SAPS.”

The chief executive of Red Ants Security, Johan Bosch, said he had no knowledge of an operation in Clay Oven and did not authorise anything for that area.

He said he would investigate the allegations.

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The Star