Transnet is threatening to evict people from their old delapidated railway houses in Springs, Ekurhuleni. Residents say they have occupied and rented the houses for many decades and have nowhere to go, adding that their children are going to school 
in the area.
Dozens of people - including infants - will be left homeless by Transnet following the state-owned entity (SOE) issuing eviction notices to several families living in the company’s houses in Ekurhuleni.

This action by Transnet could be unconstitutional as the company conceded on Friday that it will not be concerning itself with providing families with alternative accommodation, which is a constitutional requirement in terms of section 26 (3) of the country’s supreme law.

Meanwhile, children playing in filth amid a pungent smell - including derelict housing with gaping cracks and holes in the walls and floors - were starkly visible when The Star visited the community last week.

Families in the industrial suburb of Oranjehof in Springs are livid that they have been paying rent to the SOE for decades without Transnet fixing the houses, and are anxious at what will happen to them and their children once the company “ditches us on the streets”. Most of the occupants are former Transnet employees.

A community leader, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, called Transnet “cruel” for discarding people like trash, despite families repairing the company’s houses while paying rent - without the SOE assisting in the upkeep of its homes.

“The safety of our families was important. We were not going to wait for the reluctant Transnet (to fix houses) when our lives were in danger,” the leader said.

Transnet spokesperson Nompumelelo Kunene said the company always followed due process when evicting illegal occupants from properties it owns.

Kunene added that alternative accommodation did not fall under Transnet’s responsibility, and referred questions in this regard to the council.

However, municipal spokesperson Themba Gadebe said the city was not aware of the evictions.

The Star understands from a highly placed Ekurhuleni source that Transnet had not bothered to inform the city about the evictions, and that the council would have to provide alternative accommodation.

Section 26 of the constitution, as well as some provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction (PIE) Act, state that all evictions should be done following a court order and after the court in question had considered various factors, including whether vulnerable persons - among them children and female-headed households - are provided with alternative accommodation.

Kunene did not say whether Transnet had obtained a court order to evict the tenants, but maintained that this action was in line with the PIE Act, as well as the Consumer Protection Act.

Kunene said the reasons for the evictions included non-payment of rent and services and illegal occupation with no lease agreement. The rent is between R2500 and R4500 a month.

Families who spoke to The Star - all of whom had different account numbers and rent amounts - showed proof of leases and account payments.