Mphephu, who underwent a hip operation last week, crawled to her wardrobe for safety.
At first she thought she was being robbed, but was surprised to see the Red Ants accompanied by armed security personnel and members of the SAPS at her door.
“For a moment I thought my painkillers were playing tricks on me. The men in red threw me aside and ravaged my belongings,” she said.
Mphephu watched helplessly as they ripped her furniture apart and tore her clothes. “I couldn’t even save my medication for my hip operation,” she said.
She was one of more than 500 backyard dwellers from Mamelodi illegally occupying the flats in Nellmapius who were evicted yesterday.
The flats, which can be seen along Solomon Mahlangu Drive, were described by the residents as homely, with two bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen and toilet and shower.
And although without taps or basic services such as electricity meters and running water, occupants said it was better than living in a crowded yard with parents.
Most of them said they didn’t mind paying for services.
“We just want a decent place for our families. We can pay rent and rates and taxes,” said one resident.
Residents who had occupied the flats since the beginning of March, said they could not wait any longer for the City to allocate the houses, which they added were empty and being vandalised for the past three years.
Evicted residents also complained that Mamelodi residents were not getting first preference for the units, and that “outsiders” were inclined to live in them.
Evicted residents said they chose the flats because “shacks” in Mamelodi East were occupied by people who were neither local residents nor South Africans.
“I was staying at home with my parents and we are a large family in a small house. We can’t watch these flats stand here unoccupied while we are struggling,” said a resident who refused to be named.
Scores of evicted occupants lined up on the street with their belongings scattered around them yesterday. Children as young as 2 years sat on mattresses as parents salvaged their belongings. Some were worried about their next meal and shelter while some vowed to fight until the end.
Police had to disperse the crowds with rubber bullets and tear gas, as some disgruntled residents blocked the busy Solomon Mahlangu Drive with boulders.
A community leader known only as George said: “In 2016 they promised us these houses, and now they are allowing outsiders to take over houses.”
He said people from other provinces were occupying what rightfully belonged to the people of Mamelodi.
Truck loads of blankets were later delivered to the Red Ants inside the empty units, as if suggesting that they were going to sleep there.
But angry residents said they were not going to take it lying down and were prepared to die for the houses. “We are not even going to vote because it is useless. We just want decent houses for our families, and if need be then we will die for them,” he said.
They vowed to make Mamelodi ungovernable and shut down all major routes.
Human Settlements spokesperson Keith Khoza said they had a valid court order for the eviction, which was granted last year.
He said the units had beneficiaries already and the illegal residents had no business being there. Khoza could not give a specific date when the eligible beneficiaries were supposed to move in. “It will be pretty soon, as the project is nearly at a tail end.”