Over 200 residents marched the streets of Durban last week, refusing to be unfairly evicted by landlords who plan to convert their flats into students accommodation.

The march started at Louis Botha Statue Park, opposite the Durban Christian Centre saw participants carrying placards voicing out their anger towards evictions in various blocks of flats in Durban and surrounding areas.

The residents handed over a memorandum to a representative of Mayor Zandile Gumede, calling for government intervention and the bullying by representatives of the property owners to stop.

Residents of Syringa Avenue, Westpark Heights, Overport, Melbourne and Flamingo court and other Durban surburbs, were supported by DA councillors, Hassan Haniff, Sharmaine Sewshanker and Chris Pappas, who marched in solidarity with them.

Papas commented,”While the Democratic Alliance supports the rights of property owners to use their flats within the confines of the the law, we do not support the evictions of families and vulnerable people.” Papas said

student accommodation shortage in eThekwini is a major challenge.

“The DA in eThekwini believes that government is creating an even bigger problem by indirectly funding the eviction of the working class and vulnerable residents, replacing them with students.
Johannesburg has successfully implemented an inner city regeneration programme that has seen hundreds of affordable housing opportunities made available,” said Pappas.

Youlene Johns, a resident and march organiser with Edith Reeby, and Iqbal Mohammed from the Organisation of Civic Rights , told Tabloid Newspapers that, in Warwick Avenue, a while ago, tenants were promised ownership of their flats for
R75 000.

“Last year , an offer to buy the flats for R500 000 was made, however, later in the year tenants got eviction letters notifying them that the flats had been sold, and they had one month to evacuate the building. The notice was not legally approved,” said Johns.
She added that since December, they have asked the owner to show them a letter or lease that proves he owns the block of flats, but the owner failed.

“The alleged owner is buying out residents giving them R12 000 and free transportation for their belongings,” said Johns.
“We are not against students being housed, but it must not be done at the expense of families who have lived all their lives in these flats from the time of apartheid, segregation,racism and crime,” explained Johns.

The memorandum was handed over to Sikhumbuzo Ndaba, who accepted it on behalf of the mayor, with a petition signed by 500 people who support the call to stop the evictions attached.
At the time of printing, the municipality had not commented on the issue.