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S. Africa evicts squatters from Soweto

SHARE S. Africa evicts squatters from Soweto

SOWETO, South Africa — Thousands of squatters were forcibly evicted from makeshift homes in Soweto on Monday after residents complained they fanned crime in the township, once the heartland of the anti-apartheid struggle.

Armed police protected private workers who demolished shacks where about 2,000 families had lived since 1991.

Witnesses said mothers and their children were stranded with their belongings close to a Johannesburg roadside.

The witnesses said some of those evicted threw stones at police but that the demolitions passed off relatively peacefully.

The evictions put the focus back on South Africa's acute housing shortage despite nearly eight years of democracy and efforts of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to deliver basic services to those denied it under white rule.

"We are fighting for our rights . . . It's through our votes what made them (the government)," one man who lost his Soweto home told Reuters.

One 71-year-old man was arrested by police after encouraging the squatters to resist their relocation, the South African Press Association reported.

The Johannesburg City Council, which obtained a court order for the eviction and hired the private security workers, offered alternative accommodation in nearby hostels to those displaced.

The council said as well as worries about crime, the land was unfit for human use as there was no proper sanitation or other facilities.

Last July, the take-over of a piece of land outside Johannesburg raised fears that South Africa risked the type of lawlessness that has gripped neighboring Zimbabwe which in turn contributed to a slump in value of the South African rand.

On that occasion the government also evicted the squatters after obtaining a court order.