Friendship Town evictees try to rebuild

Published Apr 15, 2015


Johannesburg - School books, papers, clothes, broken desks and wardrobes litter the streets of Friendship Town as evictees try to rebuild what is left of their lives and possessions.

About 130 residents of Friendship Town flats were evicted on Monday because they had not paid rent since August.

Friendship Town councillor Moses Mogoba said tenants had stopped paying because of “abnormally high rent”.

“In 2009, rent was R900, then in 2011 it went up from about R1 200 to R3 300 and then it went up again two months later to R4 000.”

Mogoba said this prompted residents to boycott paying rent, leading to evictions and riots late last year.

“We live right next to a squatter camp. We can’t be expected to pay such high prices,” he said.

Resident Thabisile Busakwe said the situation was depressing.

Another resident, Jerome Francis, said: “We want to pay, it’s not that we don’t want to. We are being overcharged in rent and water bills. Many of us have lost all our possessions. The Red Ants came in yesterday, threw out our stuff and sold our laptops and double-door fridges for R200.”

Another resident, Khaya Ngubo, said: “I have a family, two kids and a wife. We’ve had to sleep outside since the eviction and we’re not sure when we will be able to return to our flat.”

Mothers Maria Mophoto and Baybey Mphoka were devastated.

“I’m so embarrassed,” said Mphoka. “All I have left are the possessions in my car. My children had to dress in the street in front of everyone.

“All my documents are lost. My ID, matric certificate and diploma are all gone.”

Some residents say they were beaten by the Red Ants, and showed journalists bruises and cuts on their bodies.

The Star spoke to Rian Reyneke of Ithemba Properties, which manages the flats. He said it was “unfortunate”, but it was not an illegal eviction.

“I feel disgruntled about the innocent people who were intimidated by ringleaders and I feel bad for the kids affected as well, but their actions were irresponsible,” said Reyneke.

He said it had started last year when three or four tenants were evicted from the flats in July.

“These three or four then intimidated other residents into joining an orchestrated rent boycott, which led to riots, the burning of our offices there and a number of court cases, which we won,” he said. “These ringleaders solicited legal fees and rental fees from residents illegally.”

Despite residents’ claims that the eviction was illegal, The Star was able to obtain legal documents which confirmed that about 200 eviction notices and warnings had been sent to tenants who had refused to pay rent, the last being issued on March 15.

“We warned them countless times that if they did not pay rent, they would be evicted. The eviction happened yesterday (on Monday) because we knew the kids were going back to school and didn’t want them home when it happened,” Reyneke said.

Francis said: “Friendship Town is a shining example of what South Africa should be. We’re selling ourselves to big business. Is this what the government wants?”

The Star

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