Organisations representing poor and working class people who have borne the brunt of the marauding Red Ants in the past, are celebrating the suspension of the company. .
Community-based organisations that fight for land and decent housing have welcome the suspension of the Red Ants Relocation and Security Services by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA). The Red Ants who are notorious for violence related to evictions have been suspended by PSIRA pending an investigation into their conduct.
In May, the controversial security company demolished and destroyed 80 structures in Alexandra township. The suspension also relates to other forced removals and evictions that they have carried out.
Speaking to Elitsha, Zanele Mtshali from Abahlali baseMjondolo and Siphiwe Segodi from Thembelihle Crisis Committee said that they are happy that the Red Ants have been suspended as the so-called security company has clashed with their constituents for the longest time. Thembelihle is an informal settlement near Lenasia in Gauteng.
“We are relieved to hear that this is a position that has been taken because we have complained about their conduct and more specifically on the way they carry themselves during evictions,” said Siphiwe Segodi.
Zanele Mtshali, the Durban-based national chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo said that they would be glad to make representations and provide evidence of the improper conduct of the Red Ants. According to Mtshali, Abahlali baseMjondolo have a total of 51 branches scattered across KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern and Western Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga province.
“The Red Ants have no regard for human life and we have noticed that lately, they do not just demolish houses but they burn people’s materials, which is illegal,” said Mtshali.
On its website, Red Ants Security prides itself as having a strong client base in all spheres of government and the private sector, and that they have assisted “many clients to execute notices lawfully granted by courts to remove unlawfully occupied premises.” The company further boasts in their profile that “Red Ants have gathered a reputation of being tough whilst remaining professional and sensitive to the matter at hand.”
More than just a security company, Red Ants fancies itself as “a multi-disciplinary company offering services in the agriculture sector, built environment, farming, security and sanitation.” According to the City of Johannesburg website, the municipality does make use of their services.
The company CEO, Johan Bosch, is pictured with prominent government leaders in the Gauteng legislature, including Premier David Makhura and Human Settlements MEC, Lebohang Maile, and former Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies. The three politicians were attending an event hosted by Red Ants.
According to Segodi from Thembelihle Crisis Committee in 2002, when the company was operated under the name Wozani Security (and ‘Red Ants’ was still a sneer), the Red Ants used live ammunition, resulting in many injuries of their members.
In his photo-essay Invasion of the Red Ants, James Oatway documents how most of the workers who carry out the evictions come from the same or similar neighbourhoods to the ones they evict. The article says that they are paid R100 and a plate of pap and stew.
According to the media statement by PSIRA, the company is “entitled to appeal against a suspension to the Minister of Police.”