Four people, including two City officials alleged to be involved in a housing scam, which saw at least 11 people conned out of close to R1 million, have been nabbed.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed that two of the accused made their first court appearance in the Blue Downs Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, where their case was rolled over and was scheduled to be heard along with the other accused on Friday.
The two City officials, aged 51 and 55, along with the two other suspects aged 28 and 36, face 11 charges of fraud.
They stand accused of the illegal sale of municipal plots at the City’s Extension 2 Mfuleni project.
The City last year made the plots available to qualifying beneficiaries for the development of housing.
The two City officials are alleged to have fraudulently approached the other two accused to ask if they knew of anyone wanting to buy plots directly from them.
It is alleged that they set their price at R100 000 and 11 prospective buyers paid amounts for these plots directly to the four accused.
“Seasoned detectives attached to the Western Cape Commercial Crimes Unit were assigned to investigate allegations of fraud after the City of Cape Town made available plots for a housing development in Ext 2 in Mfuleni during last year,” said police spokesperson, Andrè Traut.
“Two City of Cape Town officials collaborated with two others to market these plots and with their criminal scheme they persuaded 11 prospective buyers to deposit large sums of money into a bank account which was shared with the two officials.”
Traut said the scheme resulted in a financial loss of R900 000 suffered by the victims for real estate that they never received ownership of.
Mfuleni ward councillor, Ernest Madikane, said similar schemes had allegedly carried on for years.
“It's the desperation to secure a house that results in people falling victim to these scams. People want to get a house quickly and because of their personal circumstances, they may feel forced to buy, but you cannot buy that which belongs to the City.
“The City does not sell plots, even to the national government,” he said.
According to the City, the one accused official resigned with immediate effect and the other was suspended.
Mayco member for Human Settlements, Carl Pophaim, welcomed the arrests and said the case was initially driven by the City’s Special Investigative Unit.
“My heart breaks for the victims of the alleged fraud. City projects will never require prospective beneficiaries to pay money to be on a list or to receive a property. There are countless housing scams we hear of involving private individuals and fraudsters and the victims lose all their money.
Whenever residents are in doubt, it is always best to wait and ask for advice at our official City administration offices across the metro. This serves as a warning that we will absolutely investigate all substantiated housing fraud claims in this administration where officials are alleged to be involved.
I encourage anyone with information on any alleged fraudulent activity related to housing to approach me directly. I have set up an email account MMCHumanSettlements@ capetown.gov.za where all complaints may be directed and members of the public may do so anonymously.
“I will not tolerate any instances of fraud and corruption in my directorate. This administration is dedicated to high levels of service delivery, clean governance and good financial practices. That is our standard, and anyone who compromises this will face the full extent of the law,” said Pophaim.
Anonymous tip-offs may also be made at 0800 00 6992 or via email at SSIMS.SSIUReporting@capetown. gov.za