Answer to a question from a reader

What is the best way to evict my abusive boyfriend from my shack?

The short answer

If there is community leadership – like a committee that tracks ownership of shacks – you can contact them for help.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My boyfriend and I have been staying in my shack for a long time now but I am no longer interested in staying with him because he cheated on me and he is abusive. He is refusing to move out. How can I get him to move out?

The long answer

I don’t know in which informal settlement you are living, but most informal settlements have some form of community leadership – perhaps a committee that keeps track of who owns which shack? These exist so that people can’t just move in and take over other people’s homes. Or at least, is there some respected person that people go to for help with problems? 

If there is a committee of some sort that knows who owns which shack, and that people listen to and respect, perhaps your first move should be to consult with the committee and ask them to help you to get your boyfriend to leave your shack. Even if there is no committee that represents the shack dwellers, there may be people who are respected that you can approach for help. There may be a women’s organisation, or women who understand the kind of problems your boyfriend is causing you.

It may well be that there are other women in the same sort of position that you are in, and that they would also welcome support in dealing with abusive men. Perhaps it might be possible to invite a few women to a small informal meeting to ask their advice, discuss these problems and work out what can be done under the circumstances. 

If none of this works out, there are organisations fighting gender-based violence that may be able to help and advise. These are some possibilities given by

  • POWA: People Opposing Women Abuse was established in 1981 in Johannesburg, originally offering referral services and shelter to abuse survivors. It offers counselling services as well as legal and advocacy support. POWA is also involved in policy reform, socio-economic and socio-political issues that affect women and their rights. POWA has offices in Tembisa, Vosloorus, Evaton, Katlehong and Soweto. 

This is their counselling number which is available from 8:30 am – 16:30 Monday to Sunday: 076 794 5911

  • Rape Crisis: Rape Crisis began in 1976 and continues to be at the forefront in the war against rape in South Africa. It’s the most experienced NGO when it comes to sexual violence and rape in South Africa, and is also a feminist organisation with head offices in Cape Town.

Rape Crisis offers free counselling to rape survivors, community workshops, advocacy and mobilisation workshops. They have offices in Observatory, Khayelitsha and Athlone in Cape Town, offer counselling in either English, Afrikaans or isiXhosa with counselling available on WhatsApp too.

They also have a 24-hour helpline at 021 447 9762.

  • Masimanyane Women's Rights International: Masimanyane  has 14 offices across the Eastern Cape and also has a presence in two of the Eastern Cape’s largest magistrate courts and four police stations. Masimanyane focuses on rural areas too, with their community-based programs reaching over 50 000 women and children each year. They also offer dedicated HIV/AIDS counselling and education on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

You can contact Maimanyane in East London here: 043 743 9169

  • Rural Development Support Program: The Rural Development Support Program (RDSP) was established in 1992 by two social activists and focuses on the protection of human rights, the rights of women, poverty alleviation and GBV prevention. The RDSP is also one of the few GBV NGOs that focus heavily on rural communities, with their main goal being to strengthen leadership and civil society in rural areas by creating community change agents. They run a rural GBV program, rural substance abuse program as well as a rural youth workers and leadership development program.

The RDSP can be contacted here: 066 031 3830

  • TEARS Foundation: TEARS Foundation is a women-led organisation providing individual, group or couples counselling, support groups and emergency shelters. They also assist with following up on GBV cases on the survivor’s behalf and provide guidance for people in abusive relationships.

TEARS also has a free helpline number at *134*7355# which is available 24/7. 

TEARS can be contacted via email at or on their landline at 010 590 5920.

There is also the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre, which their website says "exists to assist survivors of gender-based violence by providing the assistance of qualified social workers in order to minimise further exposure to GBV." Its services include telephonic counselling, emergency help, and expediting assistance to victims. You can contact them here: 0800 428 428.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Dec. 7, 2022, 12:14 p.m.

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