Marlboro shack-dwellers thrown out into the cold streets
SHE SAT with her children and their belongings around them on the street as her shack was torn to the ground, the sound of twisting metal and thumping hammers filling the air.
Single mom Welhemina Sibanyoni and her four children, two under the age of five, were evicted by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) yesterday, in an ongoing eviction operation of squatters in industrial Marlboro, just north of Alexandra.
Sibanyoni sat on her couch in the street and watched as her shack was destroyed. “I’m watching [my things] but I can’t watch them all night,” she said, adding that she didn’t know where she would stay for the night and was afraid her things would be stolen.
The first evictions took place towards the end of June, and more were carried out last week.
JMPD spokesman Wayne Minnaar said officers had noticed that shacks had been rebuilt since the first eviction, and would continue to monitor the situation and evict more people if necessary.
Minnaar said 85 shacks were torn down yesterday because they had been built on private land. He said the situation was peaceful.
When police arrived around 10am yesterday, the residents began scrambling to save their possessions and pulled their belongings out onto the street.
But there was agony for those who did not move fast enough. JMPD officers knocked down their shacks with heavy tools before construction vehicles pushed the debris into a mountain of twisted metal and broken planks, which was then collected and taken away.
“I have a two-year-old child and he doesn’t deserve to sleep outside,” said Nadia Mashabela. “Where am I going to stay? It’s cold outside.”
Tensions between the squatters and the JMPD have been high since the first eviction in June, and both sides have accused each other of being violent.
On one of the walls alongside an area of evicted squatters, two words of graffiti read “f**k cops”.
One resident suffered a broken bone in her hand when she was allegedly hit by a rubber bullet last week, and a JMPD patrol car was set alight in June.
Since the first eviction, the residents said they had never received notices that they would be evicted if they did not move, a claim which the JMPD denies.