Johannesburg - Sparks flew in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court when an alleged rogue building hijacker accused of sowing anarchy in Rosettenville properties, made damning claims against the policeman investigating him.
The suspected hijackers made counter claims against the officer they accuse of being complicit in helping the owners of illegally registering buildings without all the required paperwork.
The investigating officer refuted the allegations, painting the accused as a lawless buildings thief who terrorised property owners. He alleges that the accused was always in the company of a gang wearing EFF regalia when he strikes.
The revelations emerged on the first day of the bail hearing of Jonathan Constable and Bongani Khathide who are jointly accused of hijacking buildings in the Rosettenville area.
The bail hearing for the third accused, Kingsley Eze, in the matter in the matter will be heard heard later this month. The State is opposing bail.
The City of Joburg accuses Khathide and his alleged accomplices of approaching unsuspecting tenants living in properties around the city centre and introducing themselves to the tenants as investigators.
Last week, the City claimed they allegedly claimed the true owners of the properties were hijackers and that the tenants should not cooperate with them but the rent to Khathide.
Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba, who made the announcement of Constable and Khathide's alleged modus operandi last week, on Tuesday sat throughout the hearing which lasted the whole day.
It is alleged that the Constable and Khathide last year fraudulently hijacked two buildings from Grace Onyinyechi Ubawuchi in Rosettenville. The buildings are allegedly each occupied by 30 tenants.
Constable was first to take the stand and made damning allegations against the investigating officer, Thilivhali Nengovhela and the owners of the properties.
He said it all started when Pastor Ike proposed that the third accused purchase the one of the two properties. Eze, he said, was a member of the National Immigration Council of South Africa (NICSA). It was unclear what the organisation did but was described by Constable as a “union”.
He told the court that Eze wanted the union to establish if Ike owned the buildings.
“He approached me because he was not sure who the rightful owner of the buildings was,” he said. He claimed to have then approached the Johannesburg deeds office to ascertain this.
“I then established that the property did not belong to Ike but to a Grace,” he told the court.
Startlingly, he claimed his investigation had discovered that the deed was registered in violation of the deeds registries act.
“It was issued to her without supporting documents,” he said. Documents such as the power of attorney, a sales clearance certificate and a duty transfer certificate from the SA Revenue Services.
“Without these documents, the transaction is fraudulent,” he testified. His assertion, he said, was confirmed by a “Mr Leonard” in the Deeds Office.
Later, he said, he received a call from Nengovhela who “told me I had no power to investigate the matter” as the property belonged to a “Marlene May Martin” - a part owner of one of the properties.
“Instead of calling me into his office or him coming to me, he called me into the office of the ANC. Here I found Grace, Ike and the investigating officer waiting. Due to time constraints - they were waiting for a politician - I had to go. The meeting did not take place,” he said.
He denied having ever taken any money from residents of the properties, saying the only money he received was a once off registration fee (between R500 - R1000) and a monthly R500 membership amount.
“You need to distinguish between the registration fees and membership fees,” he said.
Magistrate Lucas van der Schyff asked if it was normal for unions to charge members such an excessive monthly fee. Constable said the money was for instances of litigation.
Further testifying, Constable accused Nengovhela of taking him and few tenants to the deeds office to verify ownership of the properties.
“Leonard opened his computer, searched both properties and it was confirmed that documents were missing. The investigating officer became very angry, shouting, and insisted that the properties belonged to Grace,” he said. He accused him of “showing personal interest”.
“He told me that if I persisted, I would get a bullet in the head or I’d go to prison, I said: ‘that’s fine’,” he said. “The investigating officer should have investigated how the deeds were fraudulently issued.”
None of the tenants have lease agreements with Grace, the court heard.
It was for this reason, he said, he had advised the tenants not to pay rent.
He added that he the owner of the building to approach the housing tribunal for reprieve but had not heeded this. His attorney had since he been instructed to nullify the deed.
Nengovhela denied all allegations against him and instead painted Constable and Khathide as building hijackers.