Nearly 575 shacks and at least 12 brick structures have been demolished by the Red Ants and JMPD in less than 2 days. This left 1000 people without a home to stay safe in during the national lockdown. It appears that the Red Ant Security, Eviction, and Relocation services, a notorious group, are using the lockdown to demolish hundreds of allegedly illegal structures in Lawley, South of Johannesburg. Several large informal settlements have developed in the area including Lakeside and Kokotela. According to the JMPD and the Red Ants the evictions and destruction of property were legal as the structures were built on contested government land. The demolitions however, are not lawful, and eyewitness accounts of the community have proven that this has become a war on the poor and vulnerable.
Allegations of looting have been made and several photographs and videos were taken by the resident have become public. Rodgers Mathebulo said they demolished his shack, confiscated his belongings, including his phone, furniture and even the stove. He sold fruit, vegetables, snacks and airtime from his shack. The R1,800 he had on him to buy new stock was also “confiscated.” Mathebulo said they did not show any documents. “They said they wanted to see what was inside. Then they took everything.”
Two young brothers were beaten with a crowbar until the heavily armed JMPD, who supposedly kept a watchful eye on the evictions, intervened. The windows for the house they were building were shattered, and their cash and a mattress confiscated.
100’s of rounds of rubber bullets were fired at residents attempting to protect themselves, their families and their belongings. Some injuries were reported by residents too, with one man allegedly admitted to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. Sixteen residents were arrested.
No alternative accommodation was provided to the residents according to Patrick Matome. “Many people are left homeless now because they stay in those shacks with their kids and there was no alternative accommodation provided. So I really don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The residents of the area were in a court battle with the Department of Human Settlements and the City of Johannesburg, but the case was postponed to March 27 and eventually removed from the roll entirely. This makes the demolition and eviction unlawful. Although the government is within its rights to carry out evictions and demolitions, they must have a court order. Apart from that, the National Disaster Management Plan as announced by President Ramaphosa at the end of March prohibits the eviction of any person. “No person may be evicted from their place of residence, regardless whether it is a formal or informal residence or farm dwelling, for the duration of the lockdown.”