Bapsfontein residents face eviction by Ekurhuleni municipality

By Max Rambau, CORC

I responded to a call from one of the local leaders at Bapsfontein that they were being forcefully relocated by the Ekurhuleni Municipality and I went there to find out for myself.

When I arrived on Wednesday there I found out that there was a standoff between the community and the police and the situation was very tense. The community was resisting forced removal by barricading the entrance to their area and burning tyres. The Ekurhuleni Municipality had sent the “Red Ants” to bring down the people’s shacks and relocate them to some temporary (transit) place, about 20 – 22 kilometres away (next to N12) that the municipality had identified.

The Ekurhuleni Municipality did not comply with the law because they did not engage in dialogue with the community prior to carrying out this relocation. An official from the municipality just came to the community on the 16th December and loud-hailed that the people would be relocated from their area on the 27th December 2010. According to the municipality, this relocation of about 3 000 families would be moved between now and January 2011.

I met with the local leadership who briefed me about the situation and we agreed that those people who were prepared to move should be allowed to do so but that those who were not prepared to move should remain until we met with the municipality.

There are some members of the community who were injured during the clashes with the police and some people (28) were arrested. One person was seriously injured and was admitted in hospital.

More than 100 families voluntarily moved out, including some local leaders.

Yesterday (Thursday, 30/12/2010) it was the day of the court case for the 28 people who were arrested. This case was held in Bronkhorspruit. Only one person (a minor, 17 year old girl) was released and the others remained custody until the case is heard on the 6th January 2011 where application for bail will be heard.

Today I received a call from the Human Rights Lawyers who indicated that they were interested in assisting the community of Bapsfontein. They indicated that they were going to prepare a questionnaire for the community and that thereafter they would challenge the Ekurhuleni municipality on this forced relocation.

A community meeting will be held between the Human Rights Lawyers and the community on Tuesday, 04/01/2011. I will be attending this meeting and will keep you updated on the developments in this regard.

As for today, things are quiet at Bapsfontein and there were no attempts to forcefully remove people.