"I am so stressed and heartbroken. Since when has it become lawful to evict people who have nowhere to go?" asks Matilda Peterson, 66. "I am just a poor widow who has no one in the world and nowhere else to go."
Peterson and 34 other households were evicted from an old mine building behind the Home Affairs offices in Nigel, Gauteng, GroundUp reports.
It had been her home for 35 years, she said. Since the eviction on July 25, she has been sleeping on a mattress with only one small blanket to cover her. Ten evicted families are now living in the open.
The families said they were served with an eviction order. According to the eviction letter, the evictees had "failed to vacate the premises by November 30, 2018," as required by a previous order issued in October of that year.
But the residents were not expecting to be evicted as they had hired a lawyer to lodge an appeal against the eviction. For months, they have been putting together R600 a month to pay him.
GroundUp tried to reach the lawyer several times.
Nomvula Makubo said when they got the eviction notice "we went to the municipality seeking help".
"They said they would come and register our names for houses, but they are only coming now, and it's too late," Makubo added.
She is now living in the open with her two children, aged five and nine, adding she had registered for a house but when she went to check she was told she was not on the list.
Peterson said when she first came to the building it was a shop for miners and the man running the shop allowed her and her family to stay. She added they had cleaned up the place and came to love it as their home, even though it has no toilet and there is no tap water.
As more people came, they subdivided the space into rooms.
Ward councillor Wollaston Labuschagne said: "It was a legal eviction."
Last week, Labuschagne added he would be issuing a statement. GroundUp had still not received a response at the time of publication.
Novula Makubo is now homeless. She is unemployed and survives by baking and selling scones.
"Where is our government when we are suffering like this?" asked Mazwi Kunene. He said he had been living in the building for more than 15 years. He survives by doing occasional gardening work in Nigel and earns about R600 a month.
Robert Gumbi from Tsakane and his wife, Lindiwe, said they had been living in the building for more than 10 years. He does gardening jobs and gets paid R60 a day.
Kimberly Mutandiro, GroundUp