The Tenants Association of Robertsham (TAR) was formed during the coronavirus pandemic in June 2020 in the Robertsham area (south of Johannesburg). TAR members are mostly working class women who are either unemployed, under-employed, and/or in precarious work. The organisation was formed to resist unjust and unlawful evictions as well as the illegal disconnection of electricity and water services during the pandemic. Members of the association picketed in the Robertsham area from Saturday, 30 January to Monday, 1 February 2021, to raise awareness and mobilise people to support.
TAR also took to the streets of Robertsham on Saturday, 30 January after a community member’s flats was vandalised by their landlord. The landlord had destroyed the windows, broke down doors, and some of the tiling, and went as far as breaking the toilet seats in the flat. The community called the police about this incident of vandalism committed by the landlord but have still received no response from them.
According to TAR, this lack of response from the police has left the community in a vulnerable position because some landlords in the area have organised private security for themselves while the tenants do not have proper security or protection against the illegal evictions.
Ayesha Rajah, a member of TAR said; “We took it upon ourselves to protect the members of our community. We had to go out carrying rocks as we did during apartheid, chasing the security away from the building [where private security was trying to evict tenants].”
“We have also decided to occupy the empty buildings in the community. Our priority was to protect the members of the community physically, by standing in front of the building and not allowing the landlords to come in and evict people,” said Rajah.
TAR has a list of demands it is currently organising around including, but not limited to; the immediate ceasing of evictionsl; In-situ provision of sufficient water and sanitation services; and The province and City of Johannesburg to recognise inner city dilapidated buildings as deserving of development similar to that of informal settlements.
From the provincial government structures, TAR demands; The introduction of rent control measures and legislation; A full review of the social housing sector; The implementation of the Rapid Land Release Programme; and The provision of decent and affordable housing to all informal settlements and backyard dwellers.
Furthermore, TAR would like the Department of Human Settlements to facilitate the occupation of vacant buildings as well as a Housing Indaba to discuss the housing crisis in Gauteng. TAR demands accountability and the prosecution of government officials implicated in widespread corruption.
This article was submitted on 6 February 2021. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.