Uprooted by eviction

2016-01-27 06:00
FAMILIES were left stranded after refusing to honour a court eviction.  Photos: Boipelo Mere

FAMILIES were left stranded after refusing to honour a court eviction. Photos: Boipelo Mere

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ANTJIE CHANGISA (19) of Riemvasmaak in Hartswater woke up to the loud noise of banging on corrugated iron sheets on Wednesday (20/01).

To her shock, on enquiring outside, she saw more than 20 members of the Red Ants, accompanied by armed police members, breaking down shacks in her neighbourhood. Threats to do this had been made by the Phokwane Municipality the afternoon before.

She and fellow shack dwellers admitted to Express Northern Cape that they had ignored a court order and various attempts to evict them from the private land belonging to the Department of Water Affairs.

Some believed there was a political plot behind the decision of moving them to a piece of municipal land situated on the other side of Hartswater town called Nkandla.

According to them, representatives of the municipality had arrived with trucks to assist them in moving the afternoon before, giving them a last chance. They however refused to be moved, in the hope that they would be shown mercy, like before.

“We come from the farms and decided to stay closer to better opportunities, as we were moving from one farm to another with our parents,” said Maria Changisa, Antjie’s sister.

“We rented a shack in Bonita Park, just across the small canal, but the owner decided to break it down in 2011. That is when we decided to find a spot here to have our own home.”

Theirs were among the belongings that were transported to the community hall for storage until they could find a place to stay.

According to the two sisters, they lived with their parents and two children, aged four years and nine months respectively, in their shack. They said they had expected to win the land eventually, just like the people in other squatter camps do. They also expected the municipality to feel sorry for them, as it was raining.

The residents complained that Nkandla was unsafe, dark and was a private property.

A local non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Thabang Information Centre and its soup kitchen has been serving meals to the affected families. Transport to the hall where the people’s belongings are being kept has been made available, and accommodation is offered where possible. A member of the NGO said that they were saddened by the fact that the people’s belongings were scattered and had been exposed to the rain.

According to Kgalalelo Letshabo, spokesperson of the Phokwane Municipality, the residents had received an eviction notice in 2013, another one just before Easter 2015, and a third in December 2015, which they all ignored and gave excuses for.

“We warned them in December that the eviction would be carried out during the third week in January, and we went to loudhail (loud speaker) for the last time the day before eviction, while the notice was also running at a local radio station, Vaaltar FM,” explained Letshabo.

According to Letshabo it was unfair for the residents to question the municipality’s Ubuntu policy, as municipal trucks had been made available since the first notice was given to transport the residents to Nkandla in a respectable manner.

“Some of them have been moving in the process, as we had cleared a space in Nkandla, had installed communal taps and toilets in the meantime.

“We would not move people to Nkandla knowing the land did not belong to us.”

Letshabo said there had been close to 100 shacks before the first court interdict, but there were about 30 during the eviction.

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