Johannesburg - A massive crackdown is set to be unleashed on slumlords operating the 85 hijacked buildings identified in the Joburg inner city.
The clean-up team, headed by Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba, on Sunday confirmed that it has a list of 85 buildings that have been hijacked and would be gunning for the illegal owners and occupants following Friday’s “successful” raids on several flats in Doornfontein - which culminated in 102 arrests.
This was the bold contention made by Lucky Sindane, a director in the city’s forensic and investigation services.
Sindane told The Star that successful raids on Doornfontein’s Davies and Rockey streets had emboldened the City of Joburg to accelerate these “crime prevention operations” in order to win back the city’s properties from slumlords.
One alleged property hijacker was arrested on Friday, Sindane added, while another fled the scene.
“We are coming for more of these slumlords. We arrested one alleged hijacker on Friday - and the rest will be following soon,” Sindane promised.
“They (the hijackers) can run but they cannot hide,” he warned.
Asked whether the city was intensifying these operations because of the tragic deaths of seven people at the hijacked Cape York building, Sindane was adamant that this wasn’t the case, saying Cape York was raided a week before the deaths.
“During the Cape York raid, which was done in conjunction with the SAPS and the Department of Home Affairs, we collected data of the people residing there, including the number of children, women and undocumented persons,” he explained.
“We were still waiting for the relocation process to be concluded when the fire broke out.
“Remember, the city has to provide alternative accommodation when we evict people from these buildings.”
Cape York, a building on the corner of Jeppe and Nugget streets, was engulfed by fire almost two weeks ago after its second floor caught fire.
It is a woefully dilapidated building with almost no running water or electricity, and is notorious for prostitution and drug pedlars.
During a recent visit to the building, The Star saw the conditions in which the residents live, including a nauseating smell caused mainly by the lack of toilets.
During Friday’s raids, plans for a foreign national’s Saturday grand opening of a chicken restaurant were halted after the city discovered the owner was to employ undocumented foreign nationals for his business.
Sindane said the restaurant was on Rockey Street, which was not on the metro’s original plan for the operation.
“But when we went there, we found this shop where people were getting ready to open the following day (Saturday).
“All five of the employees were undocumented Zimbabweans, and this guy was going to run his businesses using them,” he said.
Sindane refused to reveal the nationality of the restaurant owner.
Mashaba said the restaurant owner received a R20000 fine from the police - on top of having his grand opening cancelled.
Sindane said raids would be conducted almost every week, but could not say where and when, “lest we alert the slumlords that we are coming for them”.
Asked how he knew that Joburg had more than 85 hijacked properties, Sindane said the city had received intelligence from some of its sources and had done its own investigations, which determined the number of hijacked buildings.
The issue of Joburg’s hijacked buildings has received national attention, with Deputy Minister of Police Bongani Mkongi on Friday committing to working with the City of Joburg in tackling what he deemed to be a “major scourge”.
In total, 98 undocumented people were arrested and detained at Jeppestown police station, where immigration officials from Home Affairs would process them, Sindane said.
Two people were arrested for the illegal possession of drugs, and another person was taken into custody for the fraudulent possession of an acceptability certificate from the city’s environmental department - a certificate that is given to traders as proof of the quality of their stock.