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​People living in the dilapidated Doornfontein building have been moved to new accommodation, where there is water and electricity.
AFTER years of living in appalling conditions in a hijacked building in the inner city, 40-year-old Sifiso Makhathini now lives in a clean bachelor flat with all the amenities that one needs.

Moving houseMoving houseMakhathini is one of 33 people who were moved from Number 7 Saratoga Avenue, in Doornfontein on 30 April to the MVB building owned by the Johannesburg Social Housing Company on the corner of Quartz and Hancock streets in Joubert Park. Another 55 people were taken to a shelter called Ekuthuleni on the corner of Nugget and De Villiers streets.

On 25 April, the 132 residents of the hijacked building were told they would be moved, by the member of the mayoral committee for housing, Dan Bovu. This came after a Constitutional Court ruling made in December 2011 ordering the City to provide alternative accommodation to people who were evicted from buildings owned by private individuals.

For two-and-a-half decades, Makhathini, a professional painter, had been calling the place his home. The dilapidated seven-storey building, which is obviously unmaintained, has not had water or electricity for several years.

Makhathini said he loved his new place because it was clean and safe. “At Saratoga,” he said, “you had to buy every day, especially things that need to be kept in the refrigerator.”

The conditions were not good and lives were at stake as paraffin stoves were used for cooking. The rent was R400 a month to the building “owners”; however after the water and electricity were cut off people were allowed to stay for free.

Makhathini will be paying R750 a month at MVB. He said although he did not have fulltime work, he could afford the rent because he made good money when he had jobs.

People who cannot afford the rent and those who are unemployed were sent to the shelter, where they were given facilities to sleep.

A former Number 7 Saratoga Avenue residents moves into her new homeA former Number 7 Saratoga Avenue resident moves into her new homeSamson Maitisa, Jackinah Kganyago and their little boy are among the 55 people who went to the shelter because they did not qualify for accommodation at MBV. Here, they will be involved in programmes that will help them acquire life skills, with a view to helping them get jobs.

Maitisa, who was visibly not happy with the move, said he would do everything in his power to find a better place for his family to live because there was no privacy at the shelter. His wife, Kganyago, was upset when they were told they could only bring in small bags of belongings. She was relieved, however, when their other belongings were stored safely for them.

Although some people were a bit hesitant to leave Saratoga Avenue, transport organised by the City was on standby to take those who were ready to move to their new homes. Some still had to apply for space at MBV and pay their deposits – which they had not done until the move became a reality.

By the afternoon, the building was empty, with all tenants successfully moved into their clean homes, complete with water and electricity.

The initial number of people who had to be evicted from 7 Saratoga Avenue was apparently just 20 when the court case began. It is believed that once it was clear the City would provide alternative accommodation, some fetched their relatives from rural areas. The number then escalated to 86, before increasing even further.

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