Eusebius McKaiser puts the Red Ants under a microscope

Chaos erupted last week after the Red Ants destroyed homes in Johannesburg's Marlboro Gardens, leaving many people homeless.

The company has been known to carry out evictions by any means necessary.

Read: 'The instruction to demolish didn't come from my office, it came from JMPD'

However, who are the Red Ants, and what are they constitutionally mandated to do?

Do they even have a mandate? Who owns the Red Ants and what is their modus operandi?

To put the spotlight on this security company, Eusebius McKaiser speaks to Right2Know communication rights focus organiser Lazola Kati and Socio-Economic Rights Institute litigation fellow Khululiwe Bhengu.

We see a lot of violence when there are legal and illegal evictions. We see a lot of violence in the social justice sector but the kind of abuse that comes with the Red Ants chills you even as an activist.

Lazola Kati, Communication rights focus organiser - Right2Know

She says the Red Ants is a private security company that was founded by a farmer called Johan Bosch.

The company works with both national, provincial municipal and private clients.

Kati adds that the company has had six brutal cases over the years against it, where people have been beaten up and killed.

Everywhere the Red Ants go people are sexually assaulted, raped, dragged on the street and their belongings are stolen. But still, in this country where our Constitution is the leading one globally, the Red Ants have thrived to a point where the metro police call them on-site to clean up and demolish shacks of the poor.

Lazola Kati, Communication rights focus organiser - Right2Know

Private clients require the Red Ants services when people occupy a client's land or property and need to be moved. The company comes in and demolish structures and there is no mediation involved, she says.

It doesn't seem like there is a mediation point at all, all we see is a client would say get off our land and out of nowhere the Red Ants arrive early in the morning and start demolishing homes. In many cases, they don't give people a chance to get off the property. They steal things and they break stuff. There have been instances where they physically removed children violently off properties.

Lazola Kati, Communication rights focus organiser - Right2Know

Questions have been raised as to what rights do citizens have when it comes to being forcefully removed by the Red Ants.

Bhengu says whenever the Red Ants effect evictions, they do it under the instruction of the sheriff of the court in that particular area.

Also read: EFF wants Ipid, Public Protector and SAHRC to probe Alexandra demolitions

When there is a court order authorising for eviction of people and the sheriff effects it through the Red Ants, then the sheriff should be accountable for everything that the Red Ants do while conducting the evictions.

Khululiwe Bhengu, Litigation fellow - Socio-Economic Rights Institute

She says the Red Ants' job is to protect properties without violating people's rights as that is criminality.

The law says if you have someone who is illegally occupying a property and you want them out of your property, you need to get a court order because of Section 26 of the Constitution that says: "No one may be evicted from their home without the order of the court."

Khululiwe Bhengu, Litigation fellow - Socio-Economic Rights Institute

She adds that it is not just a matter of getting a court order, but the presiding officer needs to have all the relevant circumstances before an eviction can be carried out.

They need to know who is this person you want to evict, what are their personal circumstances, is it an old person and can they house themselves. What the ConCourt has said is that if the person is unable to house themselves and the eviction will result in them being homeless, the municipality concerned needs to provide alternative accommodation. The eviction order cannot be granted unless that happens.

Khululiwe Bhengu, Litigation fellow - Socio-Economic Rights Institute

Listen below to the full discussion on eviction laws and the Red Ants:


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