Joburg declares war on the building hijackers

The Joburg council is calling on all victims of building hijackers to help it smash the gangs terrorising owners and residents.

On Tuesday, the regional director of the inner city, Nathi Mthethwa, said a team of highly specialised investigators and lawyers had been appointed to deal with the problem.

The National Prosecuting Authority as well as a specialised team from the SAPS were on board the campaign.

The city placed an advert in the Saturday Star last week in which it said it was compiling a database of displaced sectional-title holders and owners of flats and other buildings who have title deeds registered in the deeds office.

All these property owners were invited to contact the council so that it could "determine the extent of the problem and formulate a strategy to eradicate the problem".

These are property owners who:

  • Have been forcibly displaced;
  • Had a rental agreement with a tenant but were no longer being paid rent, or did not know the occupants;
  • Are unable to gain access to their property;
  • Have to pay a bond for the property but do not have access to it.
  • Have been forcibly removed from the property by unknown managing agents or bodies corporate;
  • Are forced to pay an account for property without required documents;
  • Have had legal action taken by the council for various contraventions, yet cannot gain access to the property;
  • Are no longer in control of the property but are in arrears with payment of levies, rates and taxes and services; or
  • Reside in a building which has, due to mismanagement by management agents or a purported body corporate, deteriorated so badly that services have been terminated and the building infrastructure has completely collapsed.

"We have put together a formidable team to solve the problem. We have also appointed a senior prosecutor to represent the city in court," said Mthethwa.

"So far, only two people have been arrested for building hijacking, while we believe that between 60 and 100 should have been arrested."

Criminals used a variety of methods to hijack buildings.

"It's not only the physical act of invading buildings and taking them over.

"A common method is to target well-run buildings, rent out flats and then start destabilising the building by mobilising the tenants to stop paying rent."

Renny Plitt, of the Property Owners' and Managers' Association, welcomed the city's move.

"We have a lot of faith in Nathi Mthethwa. We have been pushing for this for many years.

"Abandoned and hijacked buildings are a major stumbling block in the regeneration of the inner city," he said.

A database was a good starting point, but what remained to be seen was what would happen after the data was collected, as the council was "hamstrung by the court ruling which said it cannot just evict people from bad buildings".

More information from Patrick Phosa on 011 376 8640 or email patrickpho@joburg.org

  • This article was originally published on page 11 of The Star on May 13, 2009

Article from: www.iol.co.za