On Tuesday 6 April 2021, employees of the Red Ant Security Relocation & Eviction Services, with the supervision of the Sheriff, illegally evicted dozens of residents from their homes on a property in Dunkeld West, leaving them homeless and destitute. No court order had been sought or granted for the eviction, therefore violating section 26(3) of the Constitution which mandates that no person may be evicted from their home without a court order issued having considered all relevant circumstances.
The residents are hardworking members of the community who earn a meagre living in the affluent northern suburbs of Johannesburg. Many of them make a living as waste recyclers, car guards, informal traders and gardeners, while others carry out casual manual labour for property owners in the area. They reside in shacks and an abandoned out-building on the property, because they have nowhere else to go. Some have lived on the property for 17 years.
In conducting the eviction, the property owners relied on an interim interdict issued by the South Gauteng High Court in February 2021 protecting their property from further occupation. The interim interdict does not constitute an application for eviction and does not apply to the occupiers who had already been in occupation. The failure to seek a court order deprives the residents of the protections they are entitled to in law. In terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 (the PIE Act), the residents are entitled to written and effective notice of any proceedings to evict them; to be evicted only where it is just and equitable to do so; and to be provided with alternative accommodation, where an eviction would otherwise lead to homelessness. The residents have been evicted from the property in breach of all these entitlements. These attacks happen despite a moratorium on evictions and are a direct contravention of the regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act.
During the eviction, residents lost their homes and most had their furniture and personal possessions destroyed, resulting in the elderly and mothers with infants having to sleep on the street. In addition to being evicted from their homes, the residents have had to endure harassment and intimidation from law enforcement and private security. SERI has launched an urgent application for the restoration of the residents to their homes and to restrain any further interference with their occupation until a proper court order has been obtained.
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