Red Ants back on the eviction march as court lifts suspension

2019-10-29 17:18
Red Ants at work. (Jenni Evans, News24, file)

Red Ants at work. (Jenni Evans, News24, file)

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The Red Ants will be back on the march after their suspension, regarding evictions and demolitions, was lifted partly on the grounds of protecting the jobs of up to 12 000 employees, the company said.

The Red Ants Security Relocation and Eviction Services' right to undertake these operations as well as guard duty was suspended by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA) on June 6 and 7 after complaints over four of its operations - one being the controversial Alexandra demolitions. 

On May 31, 2019, the company moved to demolish about 80 homes in Setshwetla, Alexandra, which the City of Johannesburg had considered unsafe because they were built too close to a river. At the time, two bonded houses were set alight in retaliation.

Questions were raised over who had ordered the demolitions.

The City later clarified that the instruction had come from the Johannesburg Metro Police Department. The demolitions were swiftly followed by the #AlexShutdown protests after residents complained that problems in the area were being ignored.

There were also evictions in the Ramaphosa informal settlement in Vereeniging, Gauteng, on April 10, 2019, Lenasia South on September 22, 2017 and Ivory Park in Tembisa on May 22, 2017.

On September 22, 2017, two people were killed as the Red Ants tried to clear land in Lenasia South

In a statement at the time, they denied being responsible for the deaths, saying residents had stoned their employees, which resulted in some of them being injured. 

WATCH | Red Ants destroy illegally erected structures on farm

The Red Ants were also accused of allowing non-security officers to demolish property without a court order, and in the absence of a Sheriff of the Court.

They were accused of theft, malicious damage to property, grievous bodily harm and unlawfully firing a weapon in a public area.

Their name was added to a long list of suspended companies posted on PSiRA's website.

However, the company brought a High Court application against the PSiRA to lift the suspension so that they could continue to work. It, however, opposed the application. 

On October 19, the court ruled that the company be allowed to continue its work after hearing that it had been issued a new PSiRA certificate for the period September 2019 to 2020, according to a court order News24 has seen.

The court also noted up to 12 000 jobs at the company were on the line, and that lawyers were beginning to demand their money back regarding evictions and demolitions that had not taken place as expected.

The court found that courts themselves were starting to look bad because they were issuing eviction orders that could not be carried out. The sheriffs were also taking flak for not executing the orders and getting the Red Ants in.

Usually the person applying for the eviction pays for the Red Ants' services, and it can run into the hundreds of thousands of rand to evict people from large properties, such as open land or a large block of flats.

"Given the severely restrained economic climate in South Africa, where thousands of people are retrenched every month and millions are unemployed, it is clear to me that the factors of irreparable harm and balance of convenience favour the applicants," the judgment read.

It noted there were sheriffs with nine "long-overdue evictions" and 22 "long-overdue removals" that still needed to be executed.

The Red Ants are also the sole provider to 11 municipalities to safekeep strategic and key state assets as well as government-owned land, which includes key points.

The PSiRA granted the Red Ants permission to continue with security services only when they questioned the suspension, and they had to apply on a case-by-case basis to undertake evictions and demolitions.

In the judgment, it was stated that they were turned down regarding permission for several orders granted in Simon's Town, Cape Town. 

"In the circumstances, we are therefore lawfully permitted to carry out operations as a security service provider which include evictions, demolitions, and the like," a statement from the Red Ants said.

Comment from the PSiRA was not immediately available, and will be added when received.

Read more on:    red ants  |  johannesburg  |  protests
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