Police manhandle a pair of women who resisted the eviction of tenants from units at the Howell Road housing development in Sydenham yesterday, while a member of the Red Ants, right, looks on. Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu

Law enforcement authorities and residents were involved in ugly clashes as evictions at Howell Road – which began this week – continued.

The evictions from the housing units in the Sydenham suburb came after residents refused to pay rent, saying that they had been promised to “rent to own” the houses, later finding out that this was not the case.

Tempers flared as various items were carried out of homes, resulting in residents throwing stones at police and other law enforcement officers, who fired rubber bullets.

Community members also reacted with anger as a young woman was taken into custody, accusing the police of excessive use of force.

KZN police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said municipal security guards had been evicting people when the stones and bullets began flying.

“Sydenham Police and Public Order Police intervened and instructed them to disperse. They continued throwing stones, and police used rubber bullets to disperse them.

 “One female suspect was arrested and will be charged with public violence. The police are still in the area, monitoring the situation.”

He did not address the community’s allegations.

City spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said the housing programme was meant to subsidise rental accommodation targeted at low-to-medium income households. 

“It is delivered and administered by a private accredited social housing institution on an autonomous basis in terms of the Social Housing Policy as regulated by the Social Housing Act.  

“The municipality is therefore not responsible for the Howell Road Project as it has been delivered by First Metro Housing Company, which is an accredited social housing institution.”

Mthethwa said the city provided advice and support to the institution. 

“Any action taken for non-payment of rentals in compliance with legislated process cannot be prevented by the municipality.”

She said the city, jointly with the provincial Department of Human Settlements, had profiled the initial list of 31 tenants who were on the original eviction order to assess their ability to pay rent and eligibility for subsidy programmes.  

“We are assessing the mechanism for responding to indigent tenants.” 

The Mercury could not reach the company for comment yesterday. 

One of the residents, Deena Chetty, said he had been living in his house for 16 years and was disappointed by the “heavy-handed” approach of the municipality.

“They want us to go but they are not providing alternative accommodation.”

Another resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she was making calls trying to find a place to stay.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do tonight. If that wasn’t bad enough, you have to see all you own, everything lying in garbage bags on the side of the road. “It’s not easy.”

Anthony Tonetti showed The Mercury all the additions he had made to his house, including putting in tiles, installing a new shower and new wardrobes.

“Why would I do this, unless I thought this place will be mine one day?”