Pretoria - Tshwane Metro Police on Tuesday cracked down on a land invasion scam in Ga-Rankuwa’s Zone 22 where members of the public were talked into buying stands on vacant land for R100.
A 42-year-old woman, believed to be the kingpin of the scam, was arrested after she asked the metro police to protect her from the angry community threatening to kill her.
She has agreed to lead police to other members of the so-called committee selling the land.
One member of the “land mafia” is believed to be a pastor in the area.
There are at least five people involved, according to the metro police. The scamsters operated from a dilapidated one-room office opposite 48 hectares of open land owned by the City of Tshwane.
They claimed to work for the metro, offering 15m x 20m stands for R100. When police raided the office, they found hundreds of ID documents of people who had bought stands. They also found a book documenting each sale.
The woman had R1 000 in cash on her when she was arrested but claimed there was more and that at least R2 500 was made on Tuesday.
Of the R100 fee, R70 “would go towards infrastructure”, such as roads. The committee hired a contractor to clean the roads, paying the company R6 000 to do so.
“They target open spaces. We have finally managed to catch these people who always evaded us,” said metro police spokesman Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba.
The land was sold to at least 9 000 people from all over the country. It is believed the committee has made more than R90 000 so far. The woman claimed to earn R100 a day for selling the stands.
Members of the community who fell victim to the scheme threatened to kill the woman, demanding their money back. Mahamba warned the public not to buy stands illegally and to rather approach the metro if they needed housing.
The metro police promised to tear down any structures built on the property illegally.
“Those involved should approach the council for assistance and go the legal route,” Mahamba said.
A handful of community members gathered outside the small office building on Tuesday complaining about the open field.
“People die here, they get raped… We want to set up an informal settlement so it is safer,” one said.
Mahamba warned the group that any illegal houses and shacks would be destroyed.
He promised to follow up on complaints of crime in the area.