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Saturday, June 25, 2022

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Three weeks after evictions, residents still sleeping on the streets

Residents of Lethabong Informal Settlement Oliphant Motloung, MorenaMosia and Mamasia Mokubung have been left on the streets nearly amonth after their shacks were demolished in may.Picture: BhekikhayaMabaso African News Agency (ANA)

Residents of Lethabong Informal Settlement Oliphant Motloung, MorenaMosia and Mamasia Mokubung have been left on the streets nearly amonth after their shacks were demolished in may.Picture: BhekikhayaMabaso African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 21, 2022


Johannesburg - Almost a month later, residents of Lethabong informal settlement in Sebokeng who had their houses demolished by the red ants are still out in the cold.

They have still not been provided with alternative land and have been forced to brace the cold winter days in the streets.

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Their houses were raised to the ground after it was claimed they illegally occupied private land.

Last month, the red ants were deployed to evict the occupants in the area.

The residents now built makeshift shelters in the streets to protect themselves against cold and rainy weather.

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The shelters are made of plastics, boxes, and rubble from the demolished shacks.

This week has seen temperatures drop dramatically, and the residents were also the hardest hit as most do not have enough blankets and clothes.

When the “Sunday Independent” visited the area on Wednesday, resident Robert Shisane, 56, and his wife Moki Memisa, 57, were cooking outside their shelter.

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The two said it was cold in the streets but had no other alternatives.

They said they have been in the area since 2018.

“The only option is to stay by the fire until late.

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“This is a sad situation. These people (red ants) have left us with nothing.

“We don't know how we will manage to start afresh because we don't have any income,” said Memisa.

While many of the residents took their children to their close relatives, Mxolisi Mzimela opted to stay with his two children, saying he had no other options.

He told the reporter that the children, 11 and 4, caught the flu from sleeping in the streets.

“I have nowhere to go with my children.

“I came to live in this area because rent became very expensive and I am not working.

“Even my parents live in this area and have nowhere else to go. My first-born child has to skip classes because of the situation,” he said.

Emotions overcame the 25 year old as he shared the pain he endured by seeing his children without their home.

“This is very painful. It is painful to see my children getting cold.

“They (children) saw everything, and I don't know how can I explain it. I always tell them that it will be alright.

“I hope the government will do something about this situation,” he said.

Oliphant Motloung said the only option he had was to live in the streets, hoping the situation would be sorted out soon.

“There's nothing I can do. I hope they give us a place where we can stay peacefully.

“And it will be difficult to build against because these people (red ants) have destroyed everything,” said the 41-year-old.

He said it is always hard to sleep because it is cold and that he also has to ensure he is safe.

“It is always cold here, and I hardly sleep. We are always on the fire outside, and sometimes we spend the whole night.

“There is no way we can have a sleep peacefully here.”

Community leader Jonas Masike said they were subjected to abuse and harassment from the police and red ants securities, adding that they wanted to chase them from the streets.

He said they occupied the land in 2017 and agreed with the government that there would be no evictions in this area.

Masike said the demolition came as a shock.

He said they took the matter to South Gauteng High Court in Joburg, and it was postponed to Wednesday next week.

“This is not a life. We have to light a fire to warm ourselves. Life has changed, and it is painful; no one deserves to live like this. We are being treated like animals,” he said.

Their representative Lawrance Madikane from Lawyers for Black People confirmed an ongoing case against Set Square Development Propriety Limited, Gauteng Department of Human Settlement, Emfuleni Local Municipality, and De Deur SAPS.

“This is to give other parties a reasonable time to file their papers, including their affidavits and replies,” said Madikane.

Emfuleni spokesperson Makhosonke Sangwani previously told the Sunday Independent that the land was part of a turnkey mega-project under implementation by the Gauteng Department of Human Settlement, the developer, and the landowner.

Sangweni said while residents were fighting for their survival in court, the government was exploring alternative areas to settle them.

“The province, through the Department of Social Development and Cogta, is intervening currently and still exploring alternative areas to settle them and integrate them into society,” Sangweni said.

Sedibeng District Municipality spokesperson Saviour Kgaswane said the illegal occupation of Lethabong, also known as Waterdal, resulted from an eviction court order awarded last year on July 20.

He said the court ruled in favour of private owner Set Square Development Propriety Limited.

He said the information about the residents sleeping on the streets was unfounded and misleading.

He said the municipality, Emfuleni Local Municipality and Gauteng Department of Human Settlement (GDHS), and the SA Human Rights Commission had a meeting to find solutions for the plights of the evictees.

He said it was resolved that the remaining evictees were to be profiled by GDHS.

Kgaswane said those who qualify for housing subsidies would be put on the National Housing Needs Register.

However, the reporter who visited the area sent him pictures, asked if the residents were not in the streets, and remained silent.

Gauteng Human Settlement and Cogta spokesperson Castro Ngobese did not respond to questions.

The provincial Social Development spokesperson Feziwe Ndwayana said she would comment on Saturday.