Durban social housing strike turns violent

2016-07-05 16:05
A pile of rubble burns on the side of the road after violence erupted when families were evicted from Howell Estate, Sydenham.

A pile of rubble burns on the side of the road after violence erupted when families were evicted from Howell Estate, Sydenham. (Kaveel Singh)

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Durban – Rubber bullets and stun grenades were used on Howell Estate residents in Sydenham on Tuesday after a private security company was sent in to evict 31 families from their homes.

Residents claimed they were not given any warning regarding the evictions. Angry community members gathered at the entrance of Howell Road, burning tyres and blocking off the area.

Barbara King, a resident of over a decade in the area, said a private security company responsible for evicting residents shot at children.

"How can they kick us out of our homes? This is totally unfair. They come during school holidays and do something illegal like this. They were shooting at everyone including our children."

Resident Marlon Jansen, who was hit twice by rubber bullets, said police fired on him.

"We gathered and were chanting and protesting. I turned my back and the police started firing rubber bullets. Children were running. Some people got shot in their faces. There are old people here. These are school holidays.

'We will break you'

"They want us to vote for them but this is how they treat us. This is pathetic."

While journalists were speaking to residents, First Metro attorney Wayne Du Toit began engaging with furious residents. First Metro is a social housing company that has been involved in the management of the Howell Estate initiative since its establishment in 2001.

An altercation ensued and he had to be removed. Residents hurled insults at a visibly agitated Du Toit.

"You will have to kill us to take us out. We will break you," a swelling mob shouted at Du Toit.

Police struggled to remove Du Toit, who would not back down, from the area.

"You? Come, come," he challenged one resident. 

Units 'not registered'

When asked for comment, Du Toit said he was instructed that First Metro would do so at a later stage.

Resident Nolene Goldstone, a member of a housing committee for Howell Estate residents, said the project was initially commenced with "an RDP criteria".

"When we asked when we will own them, they said we will see after four or five years. These discussions were with First Metro. We were paying rent. After a year we got an indefinite lease agreement that said we were paying rent."

Goldstone said after five years they began taking people on with six month lease agreements that were renewable.

"They came in on a social housing system. Secondly they also built flats in 2008. They are registered with the housing department. Our 212 units are not registered with the housing department."

Read more on:    durban  |  evictions

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