Evicted elderly couple forced to sleep in car

2011-11-19 18:09

An elderly couple was forced to sleep in their car after the Red Ants evicted rent defaulters in Pennyville near Soweto
this week.

Nozipho Hondile-Gcamlana (55) claims she did not owe rent, so she was shocked when she got a phone call from a neighbour telling her the Red Ants were in her house, with the sheriff in tow.

The Rent Ants allegedly prised her door open with a crowbar before emptying her house. When she got home, she found them “carelessly throwing her stuff around and moving her furniture downstairs”.

“I (told) them my rent was not in arrears but they didn’t listen,” she said, showing City Press this month’s rental receipt, proof that she had paid R1 200.

“I stay on the second floor and some of my stuff was thrown from there to other Ants on the ground floor.

“These people saw no need to be careful with my property, and most of my things are broken. Me, my husband Sipho (62) and elder sister slept in the car on Monday. Imagine elderly people like us in a car? What’s our sin?”

Her rent payments had always been consistent, she said, pointing at the wooden door that was forced open, a leaking washing machine, a broken wall painting and a base set with broken pedestals.

“Not only did they break our stuff, they stole my wedding ring, an iron and my cellphone,” Hondile-Gcamlana said.

“My husband is self-employed and we struggle at times to make ends meet. So how are we expected to fix all the damage and replace our lost property?”

She and another resident, Tebogo Sekhaolelo (27), who also lost some of her belongings during the evictions, are considering laying theft and damage to property charges.

“They even stole food from my fridge,” Sekhaolelo said. Hondile-Gcamlana said it took the intervention of Gauteng housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi for them to return to their units. Protests broke out in Pennyville after the evictions.

“As old as I am, I had to carry my belongings back to the house on my own,” she said.

Greg Vermaak, a lawyer representing property owner Diliculo Properties, said his client was owed more than R9 million in unpaid rent.

“My client has 800-odd units, of which 450 to 500 were boycotting rent,” Vermaak said.

He said an arrangement with the residents’ lawyer was made early this year and the original rent payment reduced from R2 400 to R2 000.

“They then signed new lease agreements together with acknowledgement of debt letters in which they agreed to settle their arrears,” Vermaak said.

He said it was possible some residents might have been evicted because of failure to honour the agreement to settle their arrears in monthly terms.

He said Hondile-Gcamlana was not paying the agreed amount, R2 000, and no arrangement was made with his client to pay R1 200.

The Red Ants evicted only nine units before the community could deny them access, barricading entrance roads and burning tyres.
They started boycotting rent early this year, citing lack of services and repairs, and declining security, a claim Vermaak denied.

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