Oh baby, it’s cold outside

Construction workers stand around a fire to keep warm, 06 June 2014, in Industria West, Johannesburg. Residents of Johannesburg are expecting temperatures to drop as a cold front passes through the country. Picture: Alaister Russell
Construction workers stand around a fire to keep warm, 06 June 2014, in Industria West, Johannesburg. Residents of Johannesburg are expecting temperatures to drop as a cold front passes through the country. Picture: Alaister Russell

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on June 7, 2014. 

Temporary relief has been provided for the residents evicted in Alexandra, Johannesburg, this week amid the first winter cold. They found themselves and the few belongings they managed to hold on to housed in community halls in the area.

Phineas Ramakgasha, who works as a security guard, yesterday said he was upset about how much he had lost in just 48 hours.

He had a backpack with his work uniform, wash cloth and a bar of soap he had just bought to shower for the first time in two days.

His home and belongings were forcibly taken on Wednesday when the Red Ants evicted residents, following a court order. “I was not aware of the eviction. I rushed from work to find all my goods – TV, fridges – out in the street. They wouldn’t even let me go inside,” said an irate Ramakgasha.

He was forced to spend the night on the street with his belongings – most of which got stolen. “Our things were just lying in the street. People helped themselves. Some stole directly from our hands,” said Ramakgasha.

“Even this hall is a disaster,” he said, commenting on the small, cold space evicted people had been allocated – and the fact that they had not eaten anything by 12 noon yesterday.

Gift of the Givers are helping to provide food and blankets to some of those affected. Ramakgasha held up one of the blankets.

Another evicted resident – one of 61 – staying at the Malboro Sports Centre said the eviction was “hurtful” and their belongings were treated “carelessly”. George Nkoana said they were victims. “We all paid rent to live there. We didn’t put ourselves there. Places to live were being sold for R500 and we bought.

“We could have fought, but we didn’t. That’s why I don’t even want to go back, I don’t want to fight anyone,” said Nkoana. On the day of the eviction he moved his family and belongings to a family member’s house, but went back that night to watch over the rest of his belongings.

Both men have been separated from their families, as women and children are being accommodated at the Malboro Emergency Centre, where 25 rooms were made available to them. They also shared the sentiment that there was some foul play and “corruption” between their landlord and authorities.

Ramakgasha said he is confident they will get the new shacks they were promised by human settlements MEC Jacob Mamabolo yesterday.

They are expected to be at places of shelter until the new shacks are built for them in Malboro.

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A VoW to clothe the needy

The chill in the air over the past weeks signals the onset of winter – and also the start of the annual Voice of Wits Winter Collection drive.

VoW aims to collect clothing and anything else that will keep people warm in winter. These items will be donated to those in need, according to marketing manager Lucky Mdaweni.

The organisers would be grateful for anything, from scarves and hats to blankets, he said. But they were particularly looking for clothing in good condition. “We don’t want any torn and tattered clothes.”

He asked that people wash their clothing before dropping them in one of the branded boxes placed around campus. Boxes can be found in various strategic spots, including residences.

DROP HERE: Vow FM has placed these collection boxes for winter clothing all over campus. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
DROP HERE: Vow FM has placed these collection boxes for winter clothing all over campus. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

“We will distribute the items we collect to people in the Braamfontein area, as it is the community that supports the radio station,” said Mdaweni.

Wits Students in need would also benefit from the drive. VoW had a partnership with the Wits Volunteer Programme, which would distribute clothing to students on an anonymous basis, said Mdaweni.

The drive will run through the months of April and May and Vow will host on-campus promotions