Last week people watched in horror as houses in Lenasia Ext 13 were demolished because the authorities said they were illegal.
The residents have been given a reprieve until the SA Human Rights Commission reports its findings to a court.
The Saturday Star asked Gauteng department of housing spokesman Motsamai Motlhaolwa and Lenasia Concerned Residents’ Association chairman Lazarus Baloyi how this whole debacle started.
When was it first discovered that land was being sold illegally in Lenasia?
Motlhaolwa: Investigations into the illegal sale of land in the Joburg South date back to 2006. It was discovered that land was being sold in areas such as Lenasia, Ennerdale and Lawley.
Baloyi: Also in 2006.
How did residents obtain title deeds?
Motlhaolwa: Stand owners don’t have title deeds. Stand owners who claim they do, obtained these deeds fraudulently.
Baloyi: Title deeds were obtained from the housing department. It surprises us as to how they can say these documents are fraudulent when they come from their own computers.
Does the council levy rates in Lenasia Ext 13 and other areas marked for demolition?
Motlhaolwa: Yes. However, the government is charged directly for the water and electricity services. Therefore, we pay for services that were illegally connected by the residents and stand owners
Baloyi: Some of us do not receive billing statements. Most of us use prepaid electricity meters. However, some of us have connected water ourselves as the council won’t install prepaid water meters for us.
Were banks aware of illegal houses and how many banks has the government liaised with regarding properties earmarked for demolition?
Motlhaolwa: No consultations were made with banks as the lending of money was on a private basis.
Baloyi: We have not been approached by any banks.
How many houses were occupied during the demolitions?
Motlhaolwa: No houses were occupied. All the houses demolished were incomplete structures and no individuals or families resided in them.
Baloyi: Eighteen houses were occupied. People lived in them. Some had furniture inside and this was destroyed with the demolition.
How many houses have been demolished so far?
Motlhaolwa: Fifty-one houses from the 113 earmarked for demolition.
Baloyi: 47 houses have been demolished so far. What is reported in the media is incorrect. We have conducted audits and this is the number.
Who are the individuals arrested for selling land illegally?
Motlhaolwa: Several developers implicated in the illegal sale of land are Richard Zikhali, his wife Hlengiwe Ximba, Michael Madogola, Hilda Sikhute, Muziwamandla Poto, Elizabeth Masinya, Durban Baloyi and Sifiso Ditau.
Ximba has since entered into a plea bargain with the state after being sentenced to six years in prison. She now serves a three-year suspended sentence. Zikhali and Madogola’s trial is set down for the first week of December.
Sikhute is out on bail and currently attending her trial. Poto and Masinya are also out on bail. Baloyi, a former developer for the Gauteng department of housing was arrested and released on bail.
His case was later withdrawn from court to allow the Hawks to complete investigations. Ditau, an official from the City of Joburg, is out on bail and is subject to a disciplinary hearing by the council.
Three other cases are being pursued by the department.
Baloyi: There is one developer who is untouchable known as “Globes”. He hasn’t been arrested.
Contrary to the government’s statements, we are willing to point out more culprits implicated in this entire saga.
But recently some housing officials have threatened to kick out our members from their stands. Because of this, people are reluctant to reveal any information.