Johannesburg - Friendship Town, a R65 million middle-income estate in Tembisa, consisting of 266 flats and 360 free-standing bonded houses, was hijacked by a group of disgruntled tenants who were evicted for non-payment of rent.
Following two riots over the evictions in the past month, the managing agents of the flats, Ithemba, its employees and including security staff have been chased off the premises.
Several times, residents have blockaded the entrance, preventing the flat owners and tenants from entering or leaving the estate.
Rian Reyneke from Ithemba said the problems started in August when they obtained an eviction order against four tenants who were not paying rent. The aggrieved tenants then started lobbying others not to pay, telling them they were being overcharged and that the flats had been donated to local residents by the Chinese government.
After the eviction, residents went on the rampage, burning down offices, burning tyres, and threatening tenants with violence if they paid their rent.
A second order was obtained against them to stop the intimidation and threats.
Attempts by Ithemba to place private security on the property proved fruitless.
“Prior to our eviction order, we had a 99 percent payment level, indicating that people were happy with their flats and our services,” said Reyneke.
Documents that The Star has seen show that Friendship Town was built in terms of an agreement with the Chinese government for the Ekurhuleni municipality, which, in turn, sold it to the Affordable Housing Company, at a profit. The money made was to have been used to build more houses.
“There was never a rent-to-buy condition attached to the rental of the flats. These actions by illegal tenants, against whom we have an eviction order issued by a court, jeopardise and discourage further private investment sector,” he added.
A member of the Friendship Town committee, Mpho Setati, said residents had given MEC for Housing Jacob Mamabolo a memorandum of their demands on August 1.
Ekurhuleni municipality said the properties do not belong to it and that it was unaware of the situation.