Dozens of shacks demolished in Midrand

Shackdwellers say they’ll keep rebuilding because they have nowhere else to go

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Ruth Hlungwani and her three-year-old daughter surrounded by what is left of their possessions after their shack was demolished. Photos: Silver Sibiya

  • Shacks in Rabie Ridge informal settlement in Midrand were demolished on Monday.
  • Residents say this has been happening almost daily for three weeks.
  • The City of Johannesburg demolishes the shacks and they rebuild.
  • City spokesperson says this is not an eviction because the shacks were not occupied.

Dozens of shacks in Rabie Ridge informal settlement in Midrand were demolished on Monday, leaving residents with nowhere to sleep. Residents say this has been happening almost daily for weeks.

Each time they put their shacks up, an eviction squad of Red Ants, supported by private security guards and Johannesburg Metro police, comes to demolish them, according to community leader Edward Mathebula.

Mathebula said that at first the squad had targeted only empty shacks but now even shacks which are occupied were being demolished.

The land is across the road from Austin View informal settlement, where hundreds of shacks were demolished.

Mathebula said the demolitions started in April, but the land was occupied last year in August. He said about 300 people lost their homes on Monday.

When GroundUp arrived, the demolition was still in progress, and the Red Ants were taking some of the cardboard, plastic and zinc sheets away.

Hours later, residents were building again.

When GroundUp arrived the Red Ants were demolishing people’s shacks.

City of Johannesburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said there had been no evictions.

“It was not an eviction, because for an eviction, we need a court order. This is a demolition of structures that are being built,” he said.

He said the City of Johannesburg anti land invasion team addresses any incident of land invasion. “Monday, the team descended in that space removed more than 20 shacks that were being built there,” he said.

But Ruth Hlungwani, originally from Giyani in Limpopo, said she had been living in Rabie Ridge for nine months. She had moved from nearby Kaalfontein when she could no longer afford her rent.

She said her three-year-old daughter was traumatised by the demolition and had cried when she saw one of the Red Ants workers eat their food.

Hlungwani and her two daughters are sleeping under a makeshift tent, surrounded by what is left of her possessions. Her building materials and even her cooking pots have been taken, she says.

“Now we share with some neighbours and use firewood to cook,” she said.

Fortune Dube, a father of three, was rebuilding his shack when GroundUp spoke to him. “We have nowhere to go. We can’t afford rent as I’m unemployed. I don’t even know what to eat. My groceries have been dumped on the floor.”

Dube said he expected the eviction squads to return.

“When they come back and take more of what is left, I will look for tents as a makeshift home for my children to have a roof to sleep under,” he said.

Some people were rebuilding their shacks hours after the demolition squad left.

Modingoane pleaded with the shackdwellers to wait for RDP houses. He said the area had been earmarked for a mixed housing project and would benefit people on the waiting list.

“But there are attempts by those invading the land to try and jump the queue, hoping they will be prioritised ahead of those who have been waiting,” he said,

He disputed the assertion that the shackdwellers had nowhere to go.

“They didn’t land from nowhere. They were staying somewhere. They might have moved from somewhere due to disagreements or family conflicts, but the reality is they don’t just surface in open land.”

He encouraged them to check if their names are still on the waiting list to get allocated housing by the City.

However, Mathebula said the community was tired of waiting for RDP houses.

“They failed to build RDP houses for more than ten years. Why should they remove us now? We came to stay here because this land was not used for what it was intended for.”

“We just want the land to stay on. We no longer even want their RDPs. We will build houses ourselves. We will start with our shacks, but eventually, we will slowly build proper houses,” he said.

TOPICS:  Housing Land

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

I think it is a high time our government buy land for people. I've been waiting for my RDP house more than thirty years! I'm still pending on the waiting list. I'm turning 50 next month and still staying in a room with my three children and grandchildren.

I think it's so unfair to demolish the shacks in Rabieridge, because most are unemployed and can't afford to pay rent. Some landlords don't want our children. I'm pleading with the municipality to have mercy on those people.

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