During the early hours in the morning, a trail of bright helmets bob through neighbourhoods in a highly synchronised fashion. It is an army of red ants surreptitiously preparing for another sting operation. The object of the attack is not a glistening sugar cube and the colony of ants are not species of Solenopsis. These armed men in red uniforms are specialists employed by a South African private security company to forcefully evict illegal residents inhabiting in the most dilapiadated housings. What is more appauling is that the government itself sanctions this beastly squad to carry out the most ruthless acts against humanity. For approximately £8 a day and a few morsels of food, this group of men unapologetically and indiscriminately toss children out on the streets along with personal belongings. The Red Ants are infamous for their violent methods and deny any wrongdoing in adopting these barbaric measures. Upon repeated criticism in 2014, the Gauteng department of human settlements and the Red Ants signed a Memorandum of Understanding where the latter agreed to give a 48 hour prior notice before evicting residents. It was also assured that future evictions would be carried out in a « dignified and humane » manner. Further, the agreement stipulated that evictions could only be conducted pursuant to a verified court order. Evictions post the agreement were to be monitored by a sheriff to ensure that the process was carried out in a civilized manner.
What seemed like a great agreement to protect its citizens fell to shambles even before any attempt was made to implement it. None of the terms agreed upon were remotely fulfilled and what remained of this agreement is a debris of empty promises. The conditions remain unchanged and thousands continue to be manhandled on a daily basis, as they are left without legal remedies and a home. Other legal agents of the government such as the police conveniently overlook as this « rented mob of thugs » hurl indecent comments at their prey and sing merrily as they burn homes to the ground.
The lingering concern is, what will it take for the government to protect its citizens or will it continue feigning ignorance to the barbaric state of affairs. At what point will access to alternate accomodation be granted, without four hundred residents crowding around three water taps? The biggest fear of all is whether the government will continue shirking off its responsibilities and allow its citizens to be eaten alive by a group of Red Ants.