Johannesburg - Every day Rose Hlophe, 48, leaves the tiny backroom she rents in Protea Glen, Soweto, then drives a few kilometres to Dobsonville Extension 2, where she parks outside an incomplete house that has been vandalised and is home to nyaope addicts and all kinds of criminals who use it as a hideout.
Using her crutch, she limps into the rubble and starts crying bitterly. That is because, a few years ago, she poured her life savings - almost R150 000 - into the vandalised structure as she wanted to have a house of her own.
But she lost it all, and blames the people she had asked to build her dream home.
Hlophe had them arrested for fraud, but they were acquitted, and while they continue to move on with their lives, she can’t.
She is constantly in tears, and her biggest fear is that she will die in a backroom.
She is unable to get any work because of a spinal-cord injury. “This is killing me inside. I cannot even describe the feeling I get when I go to that house because all I do when I get there is cry.
“I just ask for a good Samaritan to come to my rescue,” she said.
Hlophe believes that everything went downhill for her the day she met Festus Motsamai, an official at the Gauteng Department of Housing.
At the time, Hlophe was working as a nurse at a rehabilitation centre and Motsamai was her patient.
Years later, when Hlophe wanted to build her own house, she reached out to Motsamai for assistance.
Hlophe said Motsamai told her that one of his friends, Nkuleleko Cebesha, was selling a stand and referred her to him. She said the three of them went to Dobsonville, where she chose the land where she wanted to build her house.
But when she paid him the R45 000 requested, Hlophe said she was surprised when Cebesha gave her his personal bank account number instead of the business one.
“He said it was because he needed to take his commission first before giving the money to the City of Joburg,” Hlophe recalled.
She said that when the house had to be built, Motsamai asked her to use his services, saying he had a construction company. “He said he would even charge me a reasonable price because I had been there for him at the rehabilitation centre.
“He said I should give him a rough sketch of how I wanted my house to be. I did, and then he took it to people who do house plans and I was charged R3 500 for it.
“I also gave him R110 000 for the material to start building the house,” she said.
Unbeknown to Hlophe, Cebesha had not registered the stand in her name. She said at some point Cebesha referred her to a lawyer who he said was to do the conveyancing.
But when Hlophe got there, the man said he did not know Cebesha.
One day, supervisors from the City of Joburg halted construction at the house, saying the plan had not been approved and that the land the house was being built on belonged to the municipality.
After that, a frustrated Hlophe had both Motsamai and Cebesha arrested and charged with fraud.
While the matter dragged on in court, Hlophe tried every avenue to get assistance regarding the land.
“Everywhere I went, even at the deeds office, I was told that the land did not belong to me.
“I would go to Braam Park in Braamfontein for help and would meet crooks who would say ‘Give me R20 000 to have it registered in your name’,” she said.
In the midst of all this, Hlophe became suicidal and also suffered a heart attack.
A few months later, the pair were acquitted.
National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Phindi Louw said magistrate Vivian Hawkins acquitted them after he found that Hlophe willingly gave them the money.
“She deposited funds for the accused without any coercion from the accused’s side and therefore the court was satisfied that both accused had no case to answer to,” Louw said.
The Star tried to get hold of Cebesha to ask him why he never registered the land, but was unsuccessful.
However, Motsamai was available, and said he had done nothing wrong, and hence he was acquitted.
He admitted to have introduced Cebesha to Hlophe and that “a referral was not a criminal activity”.
Motsamai said Hlophe was to blame for everything that happened to her, saying she was “a manipulator and an opportunist who did not want to wait for the stand to be registered in her name before giving the go-ahead for the house to be built”.
“She was pushing everyone. I told her to wait for it to be registered, but she said she will build without the plan being approved and that she will later pay whatever fine they give her.
“I knew that building on a stand that had not been registered was wrong, but that is what she wanted,” Motsamai said.