Shacks destroyed without warning
Johannesburg - More than 200 Marlboro residents claim that they came back from work to find their homes flattened - and that no one bothered to inform them.
Residents of the settlement in an industrial area north of Alexandra, have been protesting since 3am on Wednesday, barricading some of the roads with burning tyres and rocks. They threw stones at whoever they believed to be an “agent”.
The residents say they have been battling eviction for more than 10 years with the City of Joburg because their shacks were erected in an industrial area.
The tug of war escalated in June when Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) issued a written warning that shack dwellers must vacate the area as their shacks were illegal.
This led to a JMPD patrol vehicle being shot at with live ammunition and then burnt down.
To date, a total of 257 shacks have been destroyed or removed, according to JMPD spokesman Wayne Minnaar.
Mother of three Maria Shivambo has been homeless for the past seven weeks. She now shares a tent with 30 other people. The tents were donated by an NGO called Fed Up.
She lost everything, including her children’s birth certificates, IDs, money and household goods, when her shack was knocked down by JMPD. Her husband does not have clothes to wear for work and they have to scramble for food as they try to rebuild their lives.
There is no water, electricity or toilets where the tents are erected. They can’t store the little they could salvage from the wreckages of their homes in the tents because it would mean less space for others to sleep. The six tents are still not enough for the multitudes who’ve been displaced. There are some who sleep outside.
Besides the lack of privacy, it is hard for Shivambo, 32, to sleep at night with 30 other people in the tent. She is not bothered or unsettled by the snores and crying of babies. She said even the eight-month pregnant woman who cries every night making everyone fear that she will give birth prematurely is not unsettling for her. She is just worried about their safety. Some of their neighbours think they are foreigners. “I speak Tsonga and I am from Malamulele in Limpopo,” she said, adding that she is ashamed to say she does not want to be confused with someone from Maputo because of past xenophobic attacks.
She is afraid that a mob of criminals will catch them unawares, attack them and steal the little they have left. “It’s everyone for himself.”
The children do, however, continue playing, oblivious to the danger from cooking fires, logs of wood that are laying around, furniture scattered everywhere and sewage running freely on the street adjacent to the tents.
“You can see everything here is chaos. It is not a way to live,” said Shivambo, who worries that her daughters - Miyilane, 15, Rebonigo, 11 and Ndhaboko, three - may fall prey to abuse.
Health is also another concern as they don’t have water - “washing hands becomes a luxury”. They have to ask a nearby firm to use their tap and have to make sure that they have enough water because the firm closes at 5pm.
Ward councillor Deborah Francisco has lost hope that the situation in Marlboro will ever be fully resolved. She said that during her campaigning to become a councillor, she addressed the issue of housing with the residents and warned them to not allow the shacks to get out of control. “I feel sorry for the innocent people that are involved but where are we going to relocate them because Alex is overcrowded as it is?”
Residents complained that they were not shown a court order to legitimise their removal and that the council should have at least organised alternative housing.
“A court order is not required in terms of the PIE (Prevention of Illegal Eviction) Act for the removal of newly built shacks, and neither is there any obligation to provide alternative accommodations under those circumstances,” says Minnaar.