Calm returns as 'Red Ants' work
Johannesburg - Squatters protesting against their eviction from an illegal settlement by about 600 "Red Ants" early on Wednesday, had calmed down and stopped offering resistance by mid-afternoon, said Ekurhuleni metro police.
The "Red Ants" moved into the Angelo informal settlement in Lilianton, Boksburg, at 06:00 to demolish about 6 000 shacks housing 18 000 to 20 000 people, said chief superintendent Wilfred Kgasago of metro police.
They were "well past the halfway mark" by 14:00, he said.
The sporadic protests earlier in the morning - with burning tyres and stone-throwing - had stopped and the angry crowds had dispersed, with only a couple of thousand people still milling around watching the demolition.
If the job was not completed by 17:00, work would be suspended overnight and would start again on Thursday, said Kgasago.
The "Red Ants" - so called because of their red overalls - usually help the sheriff of the court execute court orders.
Could 'rescue' personal possessions
Kgasago said squatters received eviction notices three months ago when a court order approving their evictions was granted.
Only a fraction had complied - "They were hoping we would not show up."
He said the squatters were being given an opportunity to remove their personal possessions from the shacks before they were demolished.
The corrugated iron, support posts and all other parts of the shacks would be removed to a yard for storage.
If the squatters wanted the material back, they would have to go there and claim it, which they did not normally do, he said.
Should it not be claimed after a certain period, it would be destroyed or used for other purposes, he added.
A separate protest about housing in Germiston was finished by 09:15, said captain Thobile Xakeka of East Rand police.
A group of about 50 residents from an informal settlement next to nearby Buhle Park had used burning tyres to barricade the intersection of Osborn and Nitrogen roads in Wadeville.
While it was initially reported the protest was labour-related, demonstrators apparently told police they were unhappy at the council's non-delivery of promised housing.
Xakeka said police had monitored the protest and the fire department had extinguished the blazing tyres. No one had been injured and no arrests made, he said.