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Several families in Motherwell, Gqeberha are living in constant fear of being evicted by a company that claims it bought their houses from various banks after they were repossessed. The families want the government to intervene and reverse the process arguing that some of them have paid for their houses in full, while others are left with small amounts to pay off.

Most of the houses are now owned by dependants of the original owners who have passed away. Final Housing Solutions, a company that claims to have bought the houses a couple of years ago after they were repossessed by various banks, applied to have the occupants of the houses evicted. There are 26 such families whose cases are before the Motherwell Magistrates’ Court. They held a peaceful protest last Monday outside the court, handing over a petition with a raft of demands to the court’s manager. The protesters want the eviction notices reversed and that president Cyril Ramaphosa and the minister of human settlements intervene in the case.

The petition reads, “We have observed that our rights have been ignored by so-called white magistrates where they do not consider our reasoning in court through our lawyers but only protect the interests of Final Housing Solutions… We have 26 families who are being evicted by Final Housing Solutions and the Court ruling does not consider the Bill of Rights where it says everyone has a right to have a roof on top of his or her head.”

The protesters were giving moral support to the Heka and Sizani families who appeared in court on the same day. The two families were given 60 days by the court to vacate their houses. Mkhululi Heka and Sivule Sizani represented their respective families in the court. Mkhululi said his father disappeared five years ago after he was arrested for resisting an eviction order. “We were living in East London and when we moved here, my father sold that house and transferred the money to buy the house in Motherwell. He then used the remainder of the money to refurbish that house and bought new furniture for the family. He was shocked when he was told that he owed money for the house.

“My father suffered a lot after the first summons came. He was arrested and detained. He was told that he would be sentenced to imprisonment if he ever set his foot in the house. That psychologically affected him and he developed dementia. He then disappeared. We have not seen him for the past five years. We have been served with several eviction notices and at one time the entire family was arrested and we slept in police cells. My mother passed away last year. She suffered double tragedy: that of the disappearance of our father and the constant harassment during evictions.”

Sivuyile Sizani says the eviction notices are disturbing his fourth-year, accounting studies at Nelson Mandela University. His family was evicted once before, in 2018, but he is staying alone after his grandmother, who owned the house, passed away. The house originally belonged to his grandfather and was transferred to his grandmother – with R34,000 still owed to the bank.

“My grandmother and my brother wanted to use their subsidies to clear the arrears but the company refused to take it. We were evicted in 2018 but we later returned. All these years we have been served with eviction notices. I have been given two months to vacate the property. Where will I stay if they manage to evict me?” said Sivuyile.

Organiser of the protest, Bahle Ngqondela, said it is inhuman to evict people without offering them alternative accommodation: “Our constitution is clear on accommodation. It clearly states that everyone has a right to decent accommodation. We want these evictions to stop and engage all stakeholders because some of the houses have proof that they were paid for in full. We want those who are still owing to be given an opportunity to pay in full while still staying in their houses. We don’t want a situation where these houses end up being sold for ridiculously low prices when their owners are appealing to pay in full.”

Nomonde Fanele and her late husband, Julius, bought a house in Motherwell in 1995 and had paid more than R300,000 towards it by 2014. The house was sold for R40,000 in 2014 by a Cape Town-based company because they owed R6,000 in arrears. “This is despite that we told the court that we want to pay back the R40,000 and get our house back. Everything happened so fast and without us being told. I had to travel to Cape Town to look for the company that claimed to have bought the house from the bank.

“This is a serious case affecting poor families in townships. The government should look into this type of exploitation. How can a company evict a family because they owe very little amount of money? What about the amounts that they have been paying all the years? Why don’t they get that money back?”

Ward 59 councillor, Mazangwandile Dano said he has held various meetings with all parties involved in the case and has been appealing for the homeowners to be given a chance. “It is not good to evict people while there are other alternatives to follow. These people can be given subsidies and pay in full their houses. We want the case to be transferred from the Motherwell Magistrates’ Court to the Port Elizabeth High Court because we feel their judgements are not rational,” said Cllr Dano.

Final Housing Solutions owner, Zarkir Botha said she bought the houses and paid for them in full after they were repossessed by various banks. She said the current value of the houses range from R300,000 to R350,000 each. “It doesn’t worry me even if they transfer the case to the high court because the houses belong to my company. The owners did not pay them in full that is why they were repossessed,” she said.

The petition lists thirteen demands including that the evictions underway be stopped immediately and that all evictions since 2016 be reversed. To settle outstanding debts, the petition proposes that individual housing subsidy grants be used. Corruption is also alleged: “We want the Motherwell court to investigate any collusion or corrupt practice and/or court ruling which might be found to have flouted the rights of our people in the eviction cases as from 2011.

“We specifically want the Judiciary [sic] Service Commission to investigate the eviction of Mr Heka who later disappeared after a court ruling was made against him at the Motherwell Court.

“The summon of the court does not mention the municipality as a respondent but the court has never even bothered to subpoena the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality City Manager, the Executive Mayor, and the Executive Director of Human Settlements to attend to these court proceedings so that the court decision can accommodate the interests of the evictees as the law requires such.”

The petition was handed over to a court official.