Evicted in the morning, 2,000 Nigel RDP occupiers move back in by evening

High Court ordered a stay of eviction after Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department put 500 families out on the street

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About 2,000 people in Mackenzieville Extension 2, Nigel, are back in these unlawfully occupied RDP houses. Photos: Kimberly Mutandiro

  • About 500 families in Nigel have moved back into the houses from which they were evicted by the City of Ekurhuleni on Tuesday morning.
  • They have been unlawfully occupying an unfinished RDP housing project in Mackenzieville Extension 2 since 2019.
  • Lawyers for the occupiers obtained a stay of eviction saying no alternative accommodation was provided.
  • The matter will be back in court on Friday.

Shortly after more than 2,000 people were evicted from unlawfully occupied, unfinished RDP houses in Nigel, on Tuesday morning, the Johannesburg High Court ordered a stay of the eviction order. By Tuesday night, most people had moved back into the houses they have called home for the past four years.

There has been a protracted legal battle over the Mackenzieville Extension 2 occupation since 2019, and an eviction order dating back to July 2021. But no prior notice was given when the eviction finally happened on Tuesday. There was angry resistance and rubber bullets were fired by police.

Community representatives say some belongings were confiscated on the day of eviction. They also accuse Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department (EMPD) officers of stealing.

According to the occupiers’ advocate, Desmond Brown, “The Sheriff of the court didn’t do the eviction. It was the EMPD acting on their own. The Sheriff sent us an email to say that they were not even aware of the eviction, until we contacted them to inform them that the eviction was taking place.”

“So it was totally unlawful, and we are going to lay charges against the EMPD and the Municipality for what happened,” he said.

According to Gerard van Greenen of the Gauteng Housing Crisis, a notice was given in December to a community member that said people would be evicted on 31 January.

That date came and went, and as their lawyers were in the process of petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal, the community stayed put.

Thobeka Mahlangu was wounded in the breast by a rubber bullet during the chaos on Tuesday.

“We are adults and we have children. What else do they need us to do to prove our need for houses?” asked Thobeka Mahlangu, who was wounded in the breast by a rubber bullet during the chaos on Tuesday.

“We fought hard that day and we will continue fighting because we need these houses,” she said.

She lives with her five children. She said her parents were on the housing list until they died. She registered for a house in 2016.

“What happened on Tuesday was a gimmick. It was just a faceoff by the City of Ekurhuleni to show that they have done their job according to court documents,” says Zill Rittles, of the Greater Nigel United People’s Parliament, which led the occupation in 2019.

“But the fact remains that things were done unlawfully which is the reason why our people are back in the RDP houses until due process has been followed.”

“We still maintain the argument that coloured people from our community were excluded from getting houses,” said Rittles.

She said they have been living in the houses without services and that the houses were poorly built.

“Demolishing the houses should they evict our people is the only logical thing, considering the poor state of the houses. They should let our people have the houses,” said Rittles.

Paul Dalmaida and his wife, Marita, say they are relieved to be back in their home.

Paul Dalmaida and his wife, Marita, say they are relieved to be back in their home. The couple said they barely slept on Monday evening when they heard rumors that the EMPD was coming to evict everyone. When the time came and the EMPD ordered them out of the house, they had no choice but to take their things into the street.

The couple say they are on the housing waiting list. They say they fixed up the unfinished house since moving in.

According to Gerard van Greenen, of the Gauteng Housing Crisis Committee, community members intend to open cases over missing property and also injuries sustained by rubber bullets.

“Staying in a house for four years is not a joke. The houses have become a part of us. If they evict people they should move them to proper homes. We do not want shacks,” he said.

Chris Billings Attorneys, who have been representing about 500 families in the long legal battle, say a just and equitable date for the execution of the eviction order needs to be freshly determined and that Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality is obliged to provide temporary emergency accommodation prior to an eviction. The matter will be heard in court on Friday.

The occupiers were also in the process of mounting a petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn the eviction. They are also claiming that they have Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) rights.

“I no longer feel secure after they evicted us in such an inhuman manner,” said Sidney Khan. “They should thank us for keeping these houses and pay us back the money we used to fix them.”

In a statement on Thursday, the City of Ekurhuleni quoted mayoral committee member Alco Ngobese saying, “We acknowledge that the project experienced some challenges which delayed the completion and allocation of the units to the beneficiaries. However, we are determined to ensure that the project is complete without any further delays, assessment and remedial work will start as soon as possible. We therefore call on residents to remain patient and refrain from any illegal occupation of units.”

Tahir Sema, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements, said the eviction was conducted jointly by it and the City.

“The City of Ekurhuleni won both [court] matters – the eviction order and the initial appealing matters – hence the Court Order was implemented,” said Tahir.

“There is no provision in the court order for alternative accommodation.”

“Illegal occupants were informed. Notices were issued to the invaders on 15 December 2022.”

“The Gauteng Department of Human Settlements offers everyone an equal opportunity to own a house through various programmes … The government is chasing a moving target with limited resources and over a million people that are on the National Needs Register, Gauteng.”

Repeated attempts were made by GroundUp to get comment from Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department.

TOPICS:  Housing

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