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Pretoria West families sleep on streets after eviction

Illegal occupation…illegal eviction. Two wrongs don’t make a right when people are left out in the cold.

Reprinted from the Pretoria News. By Rapula Moatshe – 2020-06-29

ILLEGAL occupants of a block of flats in Pretoria West have been living on the streets since they were evicted from the property last week. Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)
Illegal occupants of a block of flats in Pretoria West have been living on the streets since they were evicted from the property last week. Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria – About 40 impoverished families in Pretoria West spent the freezing weekend sleeping on the pavements after they were thrown out of a block of flats which they had illegally occupied.

The people were displaced on Wednesday after a property owner unleashed a group of armed security guards to kick them out of his apartments, allegedly without an eviction order.

Tension boiled over again on Saturday as the evictees threatened to forcefully invade the building, which was heavily guarded by the security personnel. The guards, who were armed with batons, riot shields and pepper spray, dared them to enter the premises at their own risk.

Emotions ran high as the two groups exchanged heated words with the evictees telling the guards that they were being used by the owner, who was allegedly a Ugandan national.

They claimed the “foreigner” removed them without a court order and that he didn’t have a title deed for the property.

While the evictees confessed that they had illegally occupied the building, they also justified their action by saying this was meant as retaliation against the owner, who allegedly torched their “house” in the vicinity.

Their leader Jabulani Ngema said: “On June 9 at around 1am our house was torched. The people behind this tried to buy the property for R35 000 and we refused. After torching the house, we decided as community members that we can’t be displaced. We are going to move into his property, which is vacant.”

Ngema said that on June 24 they were evicted from the building by the guards. “We have since been sitting here waiting for either the government or anyone who is from the relevant structure to tell us how we can deal with the situation,” he said.

Yesterday the displaced group was still camping outside the property on Zeilet Street. Their belongings, which included mattresses, blankets and clothes, were among items strewn in the street.

Ngema said they had taken the matter to Lawyers for Human Rights, who agreed “to obtain an interdict against the owner to allow us back into the premises”. He said the house, which was torched, was hijacked by a group of 12 people, including himself.

“It was an abandoned house and used to be a brothel. We engaged some of the community to move into the property. We take properties back not for financial gains but to assist the displaced orphans in South Africa and other persons who need properties in the country,” Ngema said.

Louise du Plessis from Lawyers for Human Rights said it appeared there was a bigger story behind the eviction.

She said the evictees claimed a doctor from Uganda was the mastermind behind the eviction. What was troublesome was that SAPS officers were “very much involved in the illegal eviction”.

“Our plan to go to court is to get these people back into the property and to obtain an interdict against the doctor,” she said.

One evictee, Patience Kukama, said: “We are prepared to fight for our country. The little that is left we will salvage. Foreigners have more rights than what we do.”

The Pretoria News could not trace the property owner.

Links added by SD Law.

*Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a firm of specialist eviction lawyers, based in Cape Town and now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our attorneys on 086 099 5146 or sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za if you need advice on the eviction process or want to know the cost of eviction.

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