‘Nowhere to go’ for evicted Steenvilla families

Mandisa Ndzila with her three-month old son, Daniel Ndzila, in their empty apartment.

Residents at the Steenvilla housing complex in Steenberg have asked for leniency from Sohco Property Investments even after their possessions were taken when they were evicted last
week.

Last Monday, August 14, three families were evicted by the Sheriff of the Court and 19 more evictions were supposed to be carried out but are pending after residents put a stop to the process.

Last month, on Monday July 24, Socho residents protested when the first evictions were supposed to take place (“Housing upset takes to streets”, Southern Mail, July
26).

Authorities had to close off Military Road when the protesters burnt tyres and garbage filled bins to show their frustration at what they claim were unfair evictions.

As a result, the evictions were placed on hold but were carried out last week.

Heather Maxwell, chief executive officer for Sohco, said the tenants who had been scheduled for eviction last week owe in excess of 12 months’ rent.

MsMaxwellsaidduring March 2016 a small group of tenants stopped paying rent. “After attempts to resolve the situation were unsuccessful, Sohco initiated eviction proceedings in court during 2016, with eviction orders eventually being granted in March 2017 and May 2017.”

Arantxa Scheepers, who was one of the people evicted last week, said several attempts to make arrangements for payment fell on deaf
ears.

“My grandmother is the only one who is getting pension money in our household. I did contract work but that ended so we went to the office to explain our situation and ask if we could pay off our arrears and rent with what we can afford. Then last week they come here full force with guns and take all our clothes, food and everything we had. All we ask is that we can make arrangements. Where are we supposed to go? We have nowhere to go,” said Ms Scheepers.

Mandisa Ndzila is a domestic worker who only has a part-time job and also depends on her two children’s grants. “I can’t afford to pay the rent all the time because I earn very little and I don’t work all the time. I have gone to the office to ask for a chance to pay the
arrears, I even went to the police station to ask for an affidavit and
Sohco told me it’s fine. Then they came to take my stuff to evict me. So I don’t understand,” said Ms
Ndzila.

Resident Nigel Jones said the community is standing together to support the residents who are listed to be evicted. “We feel for those who are being evicted because we understand that everybody’s circumstances change. Over the years the rent has increased but our people’s situations are getting worse,” he said.

“Sohco has no mercy or sympathy for our people even though they claim they are a non-profit company. Our people are being treated like dogs, like they have no rights. We are appealing to them to negotiate with us because where are these people going to go when they are evicted?” Mr Jones asked.

Ms Maxwell said several attempts to resolve the situation and avoid eviction proceedings were unsuccessful.

Responding to claims that residents had made attempts to pay off their arrears, Ms Maxwell said some people have made arrangements, but not the households up for eviction. She added that evictions would still be scheduled and carried out.