Sohco eviction now a stand-off

Steenvilla residents had their belongings removed by the Red Ants last week in the face of continued eviction action by Sohco.

The Retreat/Steenberg Civic Association has stepped in and will attempt to act as mediator following more protests by residents of Steenvilla, a social housing complex opposite Steenberg station, last week.

On Thursday November 23, the Red Ants Eviction Services and other security services removed the furniture and belongings of several Steenvilla residents.

Previously there had been attempts to evict families who Sohco, the company managing the complex, claims have stopped paying rent (“Nowhere to go’ for evicted Steenvilla families”, Southern Mail, August 23).

These residents were, however, not willing to leave and have asked Sohco for leniency, staging violent protests.

Resident Patrick Manuel said the reason residents protested on Thursday was because they claim the evictions were illegal.

“Our lawyers came and stopped the evictions because Sohco has no right to evict us. The way they came in and destroyed people’s property, treated people and were violent made the people angry,”said Mr Manuel.

“Why does Sohco not have any sympathy for our people? Christmas is around the corner and they want to put us out. They have no heart. Where are we supposed to go?” he said.

The tenants eventually moved their possessions back in the complex when their legal team claimed they obtained a court order to stop the evictions.

The tenants’ legal representative, Rafeek Hendricks, told Southern Mail that they were in the process of appealing a previous court ruling. “We were in the process of petitioning to appeal at the Supreme Court of appeals in Bloemfontein. We are still in the process of doing this and was still in the stipulated time when Sohco executed the evictions,” said Mr Hendricks.

Heather Maxwell, CEO for Sohco Property Investments insists the evictions were legal. “During 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 being granted during 2017.

“A small group of tenants, who are due to be evicted for non-payment of rental, have been making life miserable for all the other residents of Steenvilla,” said Ms Maxwell.

She added the Sheriff of the Court, supported by the SAPS, completed 31 court ordered evictions on Thursday November 23. “After the eviction orders had already been completed, a stay of evictions was delivered to the development by a lawyer acting for some of the evicted tenants,” she said.

Ms Maxwell, however, said the stay was obtained under false pretences andSohco will be challenging it in court this week.

She said Sohco will follow through with the evictions.

Mark Solomons, chairperson for the Retreat/Steenberg Civic Association, said they will call a meeting with all the role players and hopefully set up a platform for the various issues to be discussed.

“There are many grievances from Sohco, the residents who are paying rent and the ones who allegedly have not been paying rent. This spills over to the greater Steenberg area and affects the surrounding communities so we have decided to come on board and try and stabilise the situation and be a middleman so everyone has an opportunity to be heard and to give an input without the violence and before people are seriously injured,” said Mr Solomons.

He said a meeting will be held soon to address the concerns once all the relevant parties have been contacted.