Johannesburg - Mandla Dlamini, convicted of fraudulently selling land in Lenasia, pleaded with the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Monday not to send him to prison.
“I will do anything, including paying back the money owed to the complainants, but please do not send me to prison,” Dlamini said through a statement provided by a correctional officer.
A bricklayer by training, the grey-haired 75-year-old sat motionless in the dock listening to proceedings.
Clad in a grey suit and black tie, he listened to the correctional officer as he read out his statement.
“He respects the processes of the court and the guilty verdict. He is sorry for what he has done.”
According to the Gauteng housing department, Dlamini sold land illegally to residents in Lenasia and Ennerdale and then promised to build them houses.
Two complainants, Mr Simelane and Mr Phungwayo paid him deposits for land and on which houses would be built for them.
Phungwayo paid him R12 000, while Simelane paid R17 000.
Simelane had indicated to the court that he wanted land and a house, and was not interested in a refund.
Dlamini was arrested in June last year.
His lawyer, Advocate Skhosana said Dlamini was old and pleaded with the court to have him perform community service instead of a prison sentence.
The court heard that Dlamini was convicted of theft in 1970.
Department spokesman Motsamai Motlhaolwa said: “He took money from people and sold government land. Some paid him to build houses for them.”
Magistrate Elen Engelbrecht postponed the case to March 5 for sentencing.
In November, the Gauteng housing department demolished about 50 houses in Lenasia. The department said it was acting within the law because the houses were illegally built on government land.
The plots on which the houses were built were apparently fraudulently sold for amounts ranging from R2500 to R95 000. The buyers were given forged deeds of sale with the department's logo.
Following the bulldozing of houses, Lenasia residents held several protests against the demolitions and resorted to blockading roads leading into Lenasia with rocks and burning tyres.
Further demolitions were halted following a ruling by the High Court in Johannesburg.
The SA Human Rights Commission took the department to court, calling for demolitions to be stopped so it could investigate whether any human rights were infringed. - Sapa