Alleged building hijackers Jonathan Constable and Bongani Khathide during their bail application on Friday at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court. Picture: Lindi Masinga/ANA

Johannesburg - The Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Friday denied bail to two men accused of hijacking buildings in Rosettenville. 

Jonathan Constable and Bongani Khathide are accused of allegedly hijacking two buildings in the Rosettenville area and are facing charges of fraud.

Magistrate Lucas Van Schyff read that the State charged the two with fraud as the tenants were allegedly told by Constable and Khathide that they did not have to pay a woman by the name of Grace rental because she could not prove that she was the owner of the property.

The State argues that the monthly fee the tenants paid to the National Immigrants Council of South Africa (NICSA) of R500 per month is a rental fee disguised as a membership fee.

"NICSA is not a group of people, but Constable on his own," Van Schyff read.

"Nobody who hijacks a building will have a bond of almost R1 million. It is in my view that they are running a racket and knew that Grace owned the property."

Magistrate Van Schyff said he felt that Constable and Khathide would continue with taking rental money from tenants if they were granted bail.

Earlier, during their bail application, defence advocate Dumisani Mabunda labelled that a deeds office official was a joke and argued that the State still had no case against his clients. 

"The charges they are facing today cannot stand," Mabunda told the court.

"We submitted all the relevant documents and there is nothing to say that if they are given bail they will run away."

Mabunda said it was in the interest of justice to free the men.

An official from the deeds office in Johannesburg, Risimati Shiburi, had testified and explained to the court what had to be done to transfer ownership of a property.

"These two faces are familiar to me. In 2016 or early 2017, he (Constable) came to my office and produced a card introducing himself, saying he is from the anti-corruption unit and he explained that he was working under the Hawks (Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation)," Shiburi said.

"Our system was down and I told him to come at a later stage. He sent a message saying he was in my office for particular information and I referred him to a colleague, that was the first time I met him."

"Second time he came with Mr Nongomela and a lady called Grace and men they said were tenants. Khathide explained what they had come for and that there was a dispute about a property on a Rosettenville property and they wanted to check whether the property belonged to Grace, which it did."

"Constable requested a clearance certificate and I told him I didn't have it on my system but he could receive it at the municipality. Before they left, Constable asked me to check another property that was in the name of someone else."

Shiburi emphasised that there was nothing wrong and that Grace was the legal owner of the property.
Mabunda asked whether Shiburi verified whether Constable was really from the Hawks as he had claimed.

Shiburi told the court that in the deeds office, every member of the public was treated the same unless they came with a specific document.

"So it was not a crime for the accused to come check the supporting documents?" Mabunda asked.

"Yes, it is not a sin," Shiburi responded.

Shiburi said he had no reason to believe that Grace had hijacked the property as on the system her name appeared as the owner.

Mabunda said that Constable disputed comments by Shiburi that Constable said he was from the Hawks.

Arguing against bail, the State had said that Constable and Khathide could not prove their own personal information, and made reference to Constable providing a one page bank statement that did not show his salary.

The matter was postponed to January 24. 

African News Agency/ANA