This was a legal eviction… as far as it goes in South Africa
One of our Observers in Johannesburg has filmed a startling sight: trucks full of chanting men in red shirts, some armed with rifles, taking over a block of residential buildings in central Johannesburg and throwing the contents out onto the street. On Tuesday, these dreaded “Red Ants”, as they are called, brutally carried out a court order to evict hundreds of families.
Berea is an impoverished neighbourhood in the heart of Johannesburg, where buildings left abandoned by their owners are routinely hijacked by criminals who then pressure residents to pay them rent. According to court documents as well as residents, that is what happened at the Ridge Hotel in Berea – a former hotel turned into residential buildings, with over 300 units. The owner, despite trying to enlist a private security firm to regain control of his buildings, was unable to dislodge the hijackers and was thus losing out on rent payments. Since it is extremely difficult to dislodge hijackers through legal means, the owners did what is often done in such cases in South Africa: he asked for a court order to evict the buildings’ residents, which is much easier. The residents appealed but lost. That’s when the Red Ants – employees of a private security firm hired by the local court’s sheriff – made their move.