Eighteen households were evicted from a complex in Centurion over the weekend after the property was allegedly sold last year to the fugitive and self-proclaimed prophet, Shepherd Bushiri.
On Friday, residents from the Villa Giardini complex in Glover Street were left stranded after a sheriff and the Red Ant Security Relocation and Eviction Services (Red Ants) arrived and started evicting them.
Bushiri is currently a fugitive from South African law after he fled the country while out on R200,000 bail. Enlightened Christian Gathering leader, his wife Mary, and several co-accused were charged with fraud and money laundering amounting to over R102 million.
Their extradition hearing in Malawi is set to be heard on March.
Kicked to the curb
Residents sat on chairs on the sidewalk, watching helplessly as their belongings were thrown out of their homes.
“Some of my belonging were found outside 50m apart,” one of the evicted residents told The Citizen.
The resident, who has been living in the complex for almost 12 years, agreed to talk anonymously because he fears for his life.
“In November, it looked like a war zone,” he said. “Armed Nigerians stormed the complex and robbed us. We feared for our lives.”
The resident said the trouble started after Bushiri visited the complex a few times.
“In August, we were told the prophet bought the complex and we need to be out by September. The next moment we were told we were illegal occupants. I have been living here for 12 years.”
He said the eviction letter did not look legitimate and was not properly signed.
“Just after Bushiri was arrested, the attacks started.”
The resident was sitting at his dining room table one day when he heard things breaking.
“We ran to the first floor to hide. When one of the guys came upstairs, I hit him with a knobkerrie through the gate.”
On 10 February, the residents were served with a court eviction order and the sheriff returned two days later with the Red Ants.
“I tried to spare my belongings but half were broken and half missing.”
He said he felt bad for his neighbours and worried if everyone had found a place to stay. He was fortunate enough to have found alternative accommodation for the weekend.
Another resident in the complex said they had moved in in 2016, and signed a contract to rent with the option to buy.
“It’s beautiful and spacious and was ridiculously affordable.”
The resident’s five-bedroom house was valued at R1.6 million.
“The story of the sinkhole did not bother us – apparently there is a sinkhole in the area, that’s why the houses are so cheap.”
He said he paid his rent into a bank account until he was told the money would be collected in person monthly. The resident said they were only served a notice of eviction on 25 January.
Local ward councillor David Farquharson said he had assessed the evicted families at Villa Giardini.
“A social worker gave families an option of shelters in Pretoria and Akasia but they said they would rather stay on the street, they are not comfortable in temporarily shelters.
“The city is trying to organize food parcels. It’s up to the courts to rule on the issue.”
Farquharson said the residents’ case is in court. A leave of appeal was granted.
The residents said they would approach the South African Human Rights Commission On Monday. They also plan to reach out to AfriForum to assist with the case.
Luthando Kolwapi, the spokesperson for mayoral committee member for community and social development services, Thabisile Vilakazi, said she had sent a social worker to analyze the situation on Saturday. They could not intervene because it is private property.
“As we understand it, they were evicted due to rent non-payment.”
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