Pretoria - Women, many holding small babies, lined the corridor outside the urgent court on Monday as they hoped a judge would come to their aid so that they could have a roof over their heads.
The residents of Monflorah Park in Tembisa, turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, in the hope to obtain an urgent order that they may remain on the property without fear that the Ekurhuleni Metro Police will forcefully remove them from the land.
About 50 armed members of the Ekurhuleni Metro Police last month broke down the shacks and burnt the belongings of the mostly women headed households.
This after the residents claimed that they were paying the police bribes to be left alone.
The about 250 member community - including women and children - meanwhile lived on top of the burnt ashes and rubble as they are destitute.
But the City of Ekurhuleni fought back and denied that they had unlawfully evicted any of the residents from this property. They also denied that they had unlawfully demolished the homes of the about 250 people and that they are now destitute.
According to the municipality these people were never occupying the structures and that when the Metro police arrived there, the structures were empty.
The police acknowledged that they demolished the structures, but said the residents were back within 48 hours.
The municipality said it never needed a court order to demolish an empty structure. The court was told that as these people never lived in the empty shacks, they were thus not residents on the property.
Regarding the bribery claims, the municipality said the residents openly admitted that they were part of alleged bribery of the metro officials. It said that there was no proof that any officer was bribed and this was in any event something which the SAPS should investigate.
The municipality said the land in question was earmarked for future development of an informal settlement and these people are affecting the rights of others in the queue to be housed there, by grabbing the land.
But the residents of Monflorah Park said they have nowhere else to go. All they wanted was a piece of land where they could peacefully live. They asked that while the dispute over the land raged, they wanted the municipality to pay each of them R1 500 so that they could at least replace the food and blankets which were destroyed by the Metro police.
They also wanted the municipality to replace the structures which were broken down.
Florah Tjabadi, leader of the group, said they moved to Monflora Park last year, on land which had been empty for a decade.
“We are all poor people who previously squatted in Ivory Park.”
Tjabadi said shortly after settling there, they were confronted by the EMPD, who burnt down their homes. They later agreed to leave them in peace if the community paid them bribes.
“Many of the occupants agreed to pay bribes, but a group of us decided to vacate and rebuild our homes on the adjacent property,” she said.
In December nearly 69 makeshift homes accommodating about 250 people, were built on Monflorah Park.
Tjabadi said they stayed there in peace until December, when the EMPD, again demanded bribes or else they would be evicted.
“Out of fear and desperation we succumbed to the demands and I managed to collect R2 000 between the families. I was horrified by having to do this,” she said.
But according to her in spite of this, their homes and belongings were still destroyed.
The application meanwhile stood down on Tuesday for Lawyers for Human Rights, which assist the residents, to file further papers.