Court order or not, it's heartless to kick people out into the winter cold

Liza Modiba is one of the residents whose homes, built next to the Malboro Gautrain station, were demolished by the Red Ants in Alexandra last month. /KABELO MOKOENA
Liza Modiba is one of the residents whose homes, built next to the Malboro Gautrain station, were demolished by the Red Ants in Alexandra last month. /KABELO MOKOENA

Imagine your property being destroyed and your home being demolished. Imagine that you are already poor and the little that you have is being destroyed.

It is unimaginable that people can be evicted from their homes without being given alternative accommodation by those who carry out eviction orders. It is unthinkable that scores of residents could be evicted during the cold winter, without caring for the elderly and children that may be affected.

It is incomprehensible that this can happen in our democratic dispensation. However, earlier this month, several families were indeed evicted, and their homes demolished in Alexandra, Johannesburg. I thought it was heartless.

It is difficult to see anyone evicted from their home and their property destroyed. Some labelled it a human rights violation and inhumane. Those who carried out the demolitions said it was lawful as they were "in possession of a September 2016 court order obtained by the City of Joburg against the unlawful occupiers".

The Red Ants unit that is notorious for evictions and demolitions vehemently rejected allegations that it acted unlawfully. The EFF in Gauteng have pushed a motion that the Red Ants should no longer be used.

The motion was passed, according to Mandisa Mashigo. We should all say good riddance. People have been killed during clashes between residents and the Red Ants while carrying out evictions.

They will not be missed, after all, people can be evicted without the use of excess force.

Meanwhile, when everyone sought answers, and politicians fingered one another, City of Joburg manager Ndivhoniswa Lukhwareni "took full responsibility for the demolition of homes in Alexandra", that left hundreds homeless.

When giving evidence at the South African Human Rights Commission inquiry looking into problems in Alexandra, Lukhwareni maintained that the city did obtain a court order that only targeted incomplete structures.

I wondered if he was referring to the September 2016 court order, and if so, why wait so many years to act on it?

He reportedly also said that "he would give [ proof] that the houses were either unoccupied or still under construction."

In an effort to exonerate Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba, Lukhwareni said "as the accounting officer he had to act on the court order".

It should be condemned that Lukhwareni acted on the court order although he strangely "later clarified that while he took responsibility for violent evictions, he had not ordered the demolitions", and that an "investigation had been launched to determine who exactly authorised the demolition of properties in Alexandra".

Fundamentally, even if they had obtained a court order, the city failed to provide temporary alternative accommodation for those evicted.

In 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that judges have an obligation to ensure that evictions will not leave people homeless.

Temporary shelter is a constitutional right, and people should not be given alternative accommodation days, or weeks after being evicted.

Case law further provides that municipalities are obligated to provide temporary shelter in the event that an eviction leads to homelessness. The Concourt said that courts must ensure these responsibilities are effected when they grant eviction orders.

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