Out in the cold in lockdown days: Over 100 families evicted from illegally occupied RDP houses

More than 100 families spent the Easter weekend on the streets after they were evicted from RDP houses they had been illegally occupying since December.

The Thursday evictions in Daveyton, Ekurhuleni, affected 123 families. They had illegally occupied the houses which had been standing empty for some years.

When Sowetan visited the area yesterday, the houses were still empty after the evictions.

Ekurhuleni municipality spokesperson Themba Gadebe said the council's actions were justified, adding that the families "are on the streets by choice".

"They occupied houses illegally, we offered them shelter instead of putting them in jail. So, should police find them on the streets they should arrest them for breaking the Disaster Management Act," he said.

"We have agreed with the court that we will remove the people, but find them emergency accommodation in two centres namely Coen Scholtz Recreation Centre and Olifansfontein Hall. However, they refused to be moved to those available facilities."

The evicted families said they moved into the houses built by the municipality in December after they were left unoccupied since 2015.

Sheila Ndlovu, one of the evicted people still on the streets, said the high court had granted them relief from eviction earlier this year.

"These houses were built in 2015 and abandoned for over three years so, we as a community and individuals who have been on the waiting list for house allocations since 1996, decided to occupy the unfinished homes and fix them out of our own pockets."

Ndlovu said she lost her belongings that were taken by metro police trucks when they were evicted on Thursday.

"There is corruption in the house allocation project and after several individuals came claiming to have bought these houses, we decided that we will not move because we have documents that prove we applied for these houses that are now being sold privately by corrupt officials," she said.

Hector Phelepe told Sowetan they cleaned the houses that were abandoned and unfinished at the time.

"We took loans to buy roofing materials, doors, windows, and paint because we felt it was our right as Daveyton- born and bred children to occupy this place," said Phelepe.

The residents said after their evictions, the MMC for housing came to the police station where they were seeking shelter and said they can only take 20 people out of 123 families.

The rest of them were to be moved to shelters housing homeless people far away from their relatives and Daveyton where their lives are, they said.

After a court battle to remove the families, the Ekurhuleni municipality said it was granted a final order to evict the occupiers on March 28.

Gadebe said the order to evict the people had been in process since January.

"We kept on battling in court to evict them until the final order allowing us to evict was granted on March 28, which was a day into lockdown so it had to be actioned," he said.

"Having C form or subsidy approval does not mean one has the right to occupy any RDP house. Our people need to be educated on that note."

The evicted residents have scattered around the township to seek shelter after they refused to go to the centres allocated by the municipality.

Some have found refuge with their children at taxi ranks, closed taverns and even outside a KFC at Mayfield Mall. Some of the people were still sleeping at those places by yesterday.

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