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‘We are being abused’ say evicted residents of dilapidated Joburg building

‘We are being abused’ say evicted residents of dilapidated Joburg building
Occupants of notorious hijacked building Remington Court in the Johannesburg CBD were evicted on Wednesday, 15 November 2023. (Photo: Michelle Banda)

On Wednesday, occupants of Johannesburg’s infamous Remington Court were evicted, a move allegedly initiated by the building’s owner, according to the City of Johannesburg. However, residents claim they were not notified that they were about to be evicted.

Remington Court, a five-storey building, which has often been described as “hijacked”, situated between Lilian Ngoyi Street, End Street, Jeppe Street and Nugget Street in Johannesburg’s inner city, has long been associated with criminal activities.

The building has been subjected to regular raids by the City of Johannesburg over the past decade, along with many other dilapidated inner city properties, a practice criticised by the Constitutional Court in 2021 as “humiliating and warrantless”.

Notorious for its lack of legal electricity connections, absence of running water and deteriorating conditions, Remington Court has been a recurring challenge for the city. The building’s dilapidated state raised safety concerns, with its interior passages devoid of light and an overpowering stench permeating the entire structure.

Read more in Daily Maverick: City of Johannesburg pays lip service to tackling ‘hijacked’ buildings

According to court documents, an estimated 517 residents lived in the building. Residents are predominantly South African nationals who speak isiZulu. They are scheduled to be relocated to the Denver Temporary Relocation Area (TRA), a plot initially intended for Joburg metro police vehicle impoundments but repurposed by the city as temporary housing for the homeless.

Some survivors of the fire at the Usindiso Shelter on 80 Albert Street have also been moved to the Denver TRA.

Remington Court residents were evicted on Wednesday but claimed to have not received prior notification of the eviction.

Resident Bab’ Khumalo said, “This morning we just heard a voice from the intercom telling us that we should come out of the building. Before we could come out SAPS, JMPD [Joburg Metro Police Department], crime wardens and the Red Ants [private security security company] were already bulldozing. When we asked what they were here to do they said they were evicting us from the building on orders of the city and the owner of the building. But they refused to show any eviction letter.”

Another resident added: “We are being abused. The least they could have done is let us know of the eviction so we can make plans for alternative accommodation rather than to kick us out like dogs or some thugs. Some of us have young children who have been left traumatised by all of this.”

City of Johannesburg housing officials, who did not want to be quoted, claimed the owner of the building had initiated the eviction. Daily Maverick was unable to confirm who the owner of the building was or whether a court had granted an eviction order.

As the eviction unfolded, occupants were subjected to searches for illegal items. One man was apprehended for possessing an illegal firearm.

Read more in Daily Maverick: City of Joburg shuttered task team that should have cleaned up building in which 73 died

Ward 59 councillor Ian Mzoxolo Nonkumbi said he had attempted to intervene in the eviction process but had been excluded from discussions.

“Some time last month I received information that the residents of Remington [Court] would be evicted between the 7th and the 8th of last month. I had tried to intervene during those processes, but I was excluded from the discussions. I received a message from the Human Settlements official last night … about the eviction happening in my ward this morning.”

Nonkumbi highlighted a previous meeting with the Socio-Economic Rights Insititute (Seri), Public Safety MMC Mgcini Tshwaku and the building committee to address safety concerns in preparation for potential relocations.

However, Daily Maverick has learnt that Seri is no longer representing the occupants, with NN Maseko Attorneys taking over earlier this month.

Daily Maverick sought comments from the new attorneys, JMPD and the City of Johannesburg housing department but had not received a response by the time of publication. DM


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