Over 100 police returned to Marlboro on Thursday to evict shack-dwellers from a private property. Residents received no notification as a bulldozer demolished their homes, leaving hundreds on the streets with their belongings, asking where they should go. Gallery by GREG NICOLSON.
Khosonathi Khumalo, 30, has a wife and a daughter. When he returned home from his part-time job he found it had been demolished. Most of the contents in his shack were stolen. He found his ID and a stack of garbage bags. He opened a bag and packed what was left – pillows, bread and eggs.
When the former residents were allowed back on the corner of 2nd and 4th, they searched the rubble for their belongings. Some wanted their IDs. Others packed food into garbage bags. No one seemed to know where they were going. One man walked the obstacle course to his ruined home to find his Zion Christian Church uniform. He couldn’t find the shoes.
Johannesburg Metro Police spokesman Wayne Minnaar said a court order wasn’t needed to evict the residents. The land was privately owned and they were trespassing, he said. Metro cops saw a brick wall was being built around the property and decided to evict the residents, again. He argued that because police were only enforcing the by-laws, it was not necessary to give residents notification or temporary shelter.
Sello Maphalle, 28, overlooks the shack he moved into three days ago. He paid R1,500 for it. Debris prevents him from getting what’s left, but only a family portrait remains undamaged. Many of the former residents are from other provinces and pay shady landlords for a small plot, then make basic improvements to their homes. No one seemed to know they were staying on private land. The police haven’t seemed to explained either.
“Look, the children are coming back from crèche and school,” said someone from the crowd that watched people collect salvageable scraps of their broken homes to build anew. Men asked in broken voices, “Where will my wife stay? What can I do for my children?”
Men who returned from work to find their shacks demolished were obviously unhappy. They taunted police and smashed windows of a factory next to their former home. They gathered around a fire and planned to march to the local councillor’s house to demand somewhere to live. They taunted cars; they marched with planks of wood and the building tools they used to salvage material from their house. They called each other comrade and shouting amandla.
But the men didn’t march to the councillor’s house. Their protest didn’t eventuate, not this time at least. They dispersed on the way, with the main group meeting friends at shacks on a small piece of land, much like the one where they used to have homes. The men found a shovel, began clearing debris from a patch of land and started to erect four walls from whatever they could find.
Political party positioning is resolving around who can claim to represent the poor. But no parties nor the trade unions appeared on Thursday. “We vote. What for?” asked Glen Raseala, 23. “The ANC comes before elections. Then what? This is what I’m really angry about. We voted. But where are they now?” DM
Main photo: Dozens of police vans lined the entrance to Marlboro. They walked in groups past the debris of 110 shacks. The tactical response team arrived and forced the shack-dwellers behind a police line, away from not only their former homes but the belongings they could salvage. “I know deep in their hearts they cannot be proud of themselves,” said one Marlboro resident. The ushered in a bulldozer in the morning. They came in force to prevent a repeat of the June shootout.
"The soul is known by its acts" ~ Thomas Aquinas