Families watch in horror as City of Joburg demolishes their homes
Families in the south of Joburg were left traumatised after they watched in horror as their houses were demolished for building them on the land they had allegedly illegally invaded.
During an operation that began at the crack of dawn involving law enforcement agencies and the notorious Red Ants security firm, dozens of homes, furniture and belongings were destroyed by the city, which accused people of “illegally invading” the vacant land in Lawley, south of Joburg.
Last month’s directive issued by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola as part of the Disaster Management Act put a moratorium on evictions during the lockdown.
These evictions mirrored last week’s removals, where the city was found to have acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally by the South Gauteng High Court for ditching residents of Van Beeck Hostel in the CBD without a court order.
On Thursday, officers from the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), as well as the Red Ants, did not produce a court order while carrying out the evictions, nor did they indicate whether or not they had one.
The Star witnessed a teary-eyed single mother of four Tintswalo Mashele trying in vain to alert JMPD officials that she had a permit for the land, where she even pointed to city water tanks and toilets as proof that Joburg was aware of her existence, and was providing services to the area.
The Star also witnessed the arrest of 32-year-old Siphiwe Khubeka, who was nabbed after asking whether a court order existed for the removals.
EFF city councillor Lydia Ledwaba also tried to ascertain whether an order was present, before a hail of rubber bullets were unleashed on the agitated community.
However, in a statement, the city said “criminal syndicates” were using the current national lockdown “to invade open spaces and land”.
The statement added that only half-built structures would be removed, but The Star observed completed and furnished homes being removed.
“The city, working together with the Provincial Department of Social Development, has made provision for the homeless people across the City,” it said.
When asked whether the city had a court order to evict the Lawley residents, Joburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane reissued the statement quoted above without answering the questions.