Millions in SA remain homeless

Talk Radio 702 spoke to Housing Director Thabo Maisela about evictions and temporary housing for evictees.

Talk Radio 702 spoke to Housing Director Thabo Maisela about evictions and temporary housing for evictees. Picture: Tshidi Madia/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Despite legal protections and ambitious housing policies, millions of South Africans live in conditions of insecure tenure and hundreds of thousands of people have been forcibly evicted without legal recourse.

In terms of the Constitution of South Africa, "No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances".

Talk Radio 702's John Webb spoke to Executive Director Housing for the City of Johannesburg's Thabo Maisela about evictions and temporary accommodation that the city offers to evictees.

When asked whether there has been an increase in evictions in Johannesburg Maisela agreed that evictions were because of an intervention by the city to get people back into the city.

"Investors are coming in and buying property and they're evicting so they can renovate [destroyed] properties."

Maisela described the process of evictions as going to court to attain an order.

"When private owners evict people it's our responsibility to find temporary emergency accommodation."

However a legal researcher at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) Michael Clark joined the conversation and argued that the temporary accommodation is designed so that people don't want to stay there for a long time claiming the city's trying to shed its responsibility.

Clark added, "The city doesn't provide proper accommodation and people are left homeless."

Maisela reasoned that the city tries to avoid people sleeping in the streets by offering "shelter accommodation".

But the shelters have no rules and as a result the building deteriorates.

"To curb the problem we provide accommodation for six months and we can't provide permanent accommodation, it's just to ensure they get back on their feet."

Clark then further argued that poor people can't afford accommodation in Johannesburg because it's expensive.

Maisela said, "There are people who don't earn much and we offer accommodation at the price of R800."

At the same time many low-income South Africans have preferred to risk insecure tenure and possible eviction by building shacks in informal settlements that may be closer to livelihood opportunities and may have low or no rental rates and minimal service charges.

Other low-income South Africans pursue an even riskier alternative by occupying abandoned buildings in the inner-city, contending with overcrowded conditions, poor sanitation, and the constant threat of eviction in order to be close to livelihood opportunities.


Fordsburg residents evicted from the Newtown Urban Building near the city centre recently told Eyewitness News they don't know how they will survive in the cold.

The Red Ants moved in last week and evicted dozens of people, including children, who had apparently been living illegally in the block of flats.

Residents said they weren't given any notice before the evictions.

As a result many locals resorted to squatting outside the building.

They were guarding their remaining belongings, which were scattered across a pavement outside the building.

Others said they had lost most of their property.

One woman said she had nothing left and didn't even get to save her underwear.

"Things are missing - the TV, the DVD, even my fridge, I don't know where they are."

With nowhere else to go, some have now built temporary shelters.

The Red Ants remained in the area to monitor the site and ensure that residents did not reoccupy the building.