red ants

The Red Ants removal team. Photo: Red Ants

Red Ants continue to tear down Johannesburg shacks

The Red Ants continued to remove illegal shack dwellings in Johannesburg on Tuesday, with hundreds of residents calling foul.

red ants

The Red Ants removal team. Photo: Red Ants

Johannesburg demolished around 80 shacks on Tuesday, sparking outrage as South African authorities reported a spike in illegal urban land grabs since the start of a five-week coronavirus lockdown.

Dressed in their infamous red overalls, the Red Ants security and relocation services tore down the makeshift dwellings made from corrugated iron.

Shack removal ‘illegal’ – Sisulu

“I was in the zozo (shack), I was sitting peacefully, until they came and they bulldozed the place down,” Macy Gray, a resident in Lawley, a township on the southern outskirts of Johannesburg told AFP.

“We don’t know where to go, our children don’t have any place to stay,” said another resident, China Mashiya. 

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu condemned the demolitions and evictions, which she said were in violation of the lockdown regulations.

“It is illegal now to remove any shack. If they wanted to remove them, it is unfortunate right now it is not possible,” Sisulu told a virtual parliamentary committee meeting.

Similar evictions were seen in Cape Town where law enforcement officials demolished a number of illegally built shacks in the city’s largest township of Khayelitsha.

Illegal land occupation on the rise

The evictions come as the Gauteng province, the seat of the capital Pretoria and the financial hub of Johannesburg, recorded a spike in land grabs.

Alexandra township has seen at least seven incidents of illegal land occupations since the lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the virus began on March 27.

“There has been a notable and concerning increase in illegal land invasions since the announcement of the lockdown,” said housing and urban planning provincial minister Lebogang Maile.

He said the “well-coordinated” invasions were “incited by connected criminal networks” preying on people desperate for housing.

At the start of the lockdown last month, the government announced a grand plan to relocate people from the overcrowded informal settlements to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

But the plan is yet to be implemented. 

By Agence France-Presse