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Police and their families in limbo after Kenilworth eviction deadline passes

Spokeperson for the families, Uyanda Maqwazima, says SAPS families are living in limbo, fearing eviction from the state-owned buildings. Pictures: Brendan Magaar / African News Agency(ANA)

Spokeperson for the families, Uyanda Maqwazima, says SAPS families are living in limbo, fearing eviction from the state-owned buildings. Pictures: Brendan Magaar / African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jan 16, 2022

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Families of police members who face eviction from a barracks in Kenilworth have vowed to fight the action until a "just and fair" permanent resolution is found.

The families, who sought refuge in the state-owned building, were given until the end of December last year to vacate the premises.

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They said they were told by SAPS that rental for the homes would now cost a market-related R11 500, an amount none of them could afford.

"Our spouses earn little and we have been told that if their salaries do not cover the new rental, SAPS will deduct the difference from their pension money. So each month there will be a shortfall and a decrease in the pension payout,“ said Uyanda Maqwazima, who spoke on behalf of the families.

The families, who have asked the Housing Tribunal to intervene, said that should SAPS go ahead with the deductions, they will intensify their protest actions.

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One of the buildings in Kenilworth is in poor condition, with several broken windows covered with plastic sheets and a lift that residents say has not worked for the past five years.

In the lift lobby, the ceiling is broken, while loose bricks can be seen hanging above some corridors, posing a safety hazard to children playing below.

For some children, the police barracks are the only home they have known. Numerous families face eviction. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

At both entrances to the building there were no security guards, and residents contribute money to help keep the building clean.

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"Look at these terrible conditions and tell me if it's worth R11 500? That might be the price being asked by private property owners who provide security and other benefits, but here those security gates are open 24/7," said Maqwazima, pointing to the "defects".

She said there were close to 40 families facing eviction from the Kenilworth building, but said they were recently made aware of further evictions in other buildings in the Cape metropole.

The families said they sought refuge in the "safe houses" due to being exposed to life-threatening situations in their crime and gang-ridden communities.

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Their spouses were either shot at or their families murdered by alleged criminals who were looking for firearms and state vehicles.

Each family had a chilling story to tell.

The family of one police member, who was instrumental in fighting crime in the townships, became a target. Some members of his family were reportedly killed by criminals.

Another member who provides security protection to high-ranking leaders or VIPs, was once hijacked from his home by criminals who demanded access to his safe for the firearm.

The member still walks around with a bullet lodged in his body after he was shot at his house, trying to protect his family. His family now fear that gang members might want to retaliate as he also killed one of the criminals at the time of the incident.

Another spokesperson for the families, Noloyiso Ntantala, said due to a lack of security there had been incidents of cars being broken into, and some were stolen.

Ntantala said she had to cut short a visit to the Eastern Cape in December as she feared coming back to find her belongings strewn outside the building.

SAPS said the matter was an "internal affair" and would be treated as such.

Police spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut said the SAPS housing policy was a "transparent and fair" process requiring tenants of police accommodation to be rotated on a three-year basis.

However, one of the residents, who did not want to be named, challenged this statement.

"If they want to evict us they are basically saying that we should go back to the same unsafe and life-threatening conditions which brought us here. Ironically, they tell us that we need to make way for new tenants who are also seeking refuge from risk in their areas. We cannot and will not accept that. Affordable housing for policemen and their families should be prioritised," she said.

However, Traut said: "Our members are acquainted with the policy, and grievances in this regard will only be facilitated if the correct channels are followed.“

The families said the "policy'' was only made available a few days before Christmas and on request, and questioned whether it was a "legitimate one".

They claimed the policy was being "arbitrarily used" and did not ensure fairness as it "protected some".

"We are aware of some police members who hold high ranks and were not eligible for the safe house accommodation, who stayed for over 20 years. In this building there are SAPS office staff workers who have openly told us that they will stay for as long as they want. Their lives are not at risk, their families were not subjected to any threats, but they are not facing any eviction," said Ntantala.

One of the family members who did not want to be identified also claimed that some high ranking officers were afforded state accommodation in state-owned buildings.

"Unlike our spouses who cannot afford private home bonds or RDP houses, surely these police officers can afford to buy their own homes. But we are being chased out," he said.

The families appealed to authorities to prioritise their safety and find affordable housing solutions in the inner city.

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