Inhumane evictions during Covid-19 pandemic condemned - EFF

Fighters say despite prohibitions announced by Minister, vulnerable groups being forced out into the cold

EFF statement on the evictions or threats of evictions by financial institutions, banks, commercial and retail stores’ property owners and landlords

23 June 2020

Despite prohibitions on evictions announced by Minister of COGTA for both level four and three adjusted Regulations in the government gazette, the EFF has received countless complaints relating to evictions and repossession of houses across the breadth and width of the country. Cases of evictions from residential and commercial properties cut across all social classes but the majority of victims are working people in general and poor working-class households in particular.

This applies for residential tenants who continued to live in the mortgaged/rented/leased house and have lost their jobs; been prevented from taking occupation of the property as a result of lockdown and now can't pay the rent and commercial tenants who cannot trade from the leased premises. We condemn the inhumane treatment of those who have been prevented from taking occupancy, cannot trade from leased premises or have been evicted and whose belongings are vandalised, broken or even stolen by enforcement agencies such as the sheriffs, members of the SAPS and red ants.

We also note that these sweeping evictions, are carried out indiscriminately targeting the most vulnerable groups in society such as orphans, people with disabilities and the elderly, and are executed with brazen insensibility. With many losing sources of income and livelihood, they are dealt a double- blow of the loss of income due to the coronavirus, on one hand, eviction and repossession of their houses in the hands of unscrupulous government officials and financial institutions and banks on the other.

These evictions leave those who have been evicted traumatised, particularly children as families are thrown out without being provided with alternative shelters or accommodation.

Most evictions lead to a further worsening rate of poverty, crime and homelessness, and the only inevitable consequence of such eviction is living in an informal settlement or being left homeless.

We call on the government to declare a moratorium on evictions for rental houses and mortgage bonds and for all residents whose tenure or occupancy is insecure; that government should utilise the Mortgage Indemnity Fund to provide relief measures and cushion for defaulting people who can no longer afford to pay their bonds/rental. It should further consider as part of the social security system, a 'loss of income cover' as a viable option to ensure that a significant asset like a home is not lost during unemployment or retrenchment as a result of defaulting on payment of rental or mortgage bonds.

Furthermore, the government should provide COVID-19 death insurance for those who will die due to the virus and unemployment/retrenchment cover for people who will face eviction on account of failure to pay their mortgaged/rented/leased houses or to service their debts.

We call on the SAPS not to get involved in eviction operations and should refuse to be associated with the suffering of our people caused by evictions at the behest of greedy capitalists. We further call on the National Consumer Protection Commission to undertake proactive measures and investigations on the financial institutions conduct to ensure consumers are adequately protected.

Evictions are the worst form of violation of basic human rights which must never be tolerated.

It is our view that the court, the sheriffs, financial institutions and the banking sector and landlords cannot be left at their own device with the power to run amok in their collusion through what appears lawful yet insensitive and illegal processes to evict families in the middle of a national disaster, regardless of their circumstances.

A time like this calls on everyone to show patriotism, solidarity, love for fellow human beings and a need to uphold the values of IJBUNTU. The values of Ubuntu call for patriotic business persons to look beyond profit maximisation through the suffering of fellow citizens; it calls for communality of relations between citizens; it requires that we care of one another, that your neighbour may not go to bed on an empty stomach if there is food in your house; it is not about whether you paid for the food or not; it also demands that children, women and the elderly who are vulnerable, should be treated with extreme care and anyone dealing with them should apply special caution not to harm them or put their lives in danger.

The prohibition of evictions is a matter of national importance which should be strictly enforced with immediate effect wherein which the state takes all measures to prevent the occurrence of evictions especially under conditions of the State of National Disaster. The state has an obligation to provide all, regardless of their type of tenure, a degree of security of tenure which guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats.

We call on all people who face any form of eviction and anyhow, should call the offices of the EFF for immediate assistance. To this end, the EFF will facilitate the establishment of a broad and mass-based Anti-Eviction Campaign in collaboration with civil society organisations, NGOs and Community Based Organisations playing a supporting role with the sole purpose of fighting all forms of eviction.

Issued by Vuyani Pambo, National Spokesperson, EFF, 23 June 2020