File picture: Independent Media Archives

Johannesburg - A suspected property hijacker and 13 undocumented immigrants were arrested in Marshalltown in Johannesburg on Friday during a crime prevention operation at five hijacked and "bad" properties in the inner city, mayor Herman Mashaba said.

The arrested undocumented immigrants and the suspected property hijacker were detained at the Johannesburg Central police station and were expected to appear in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday, he said.

The city would also engage the home affairs department to ensure that those detained were properly processed. Those who qualified for asylum should be expeditiously issued with the relevant legal papers, Mashaba said on Saturday.

The operation was led by the city’s Group Forensic and Investigation Services Unit (GFIS) in conjunction with the South African Police Service (SAPS), the home affairs department, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), the emergency management services (EMS), and the city’s environmental health, housing, citizen relationship, and urban management and social development departments.

Twenty-four hijacked properties had so far been handed back to their rightful owners. About 300 buildings were confirmed as hijacked in the city. The city had conducted an audit of some 500 "bad" buildings, 24 of which belonged to the city. Sixteen property hijackers had been arrested to date, Mashaba said.

"Criminals must know that they might run, but there is no place for them to hide in Johannesburg. The city will not leave any stone unturned when dealing with criminal activities within its area of jurisdiction, and we will continue to intensify the raids at these bad and hijacked properties with the assistance of SAPS and other law enforcement agencies.

"It is essential that we bring back the rule of law in our city and take it back from criminal elements, such as landlords who take advantage of desperate people and house them under deplorable conditions.

"We are committed to ensuring that we stop the rot in our Inner city and make it a prosperous and inclusive place for our people to live, work, and play. I would like to thank all the role-players involved in [Friday's] successful operation, especially the SAPS for their continued support," Mashaba said.

He also encouraged people to report any fraud and corruption activities through the city's 24-hour tip-off hotline 0800-002-587, or visit the GFIS offices situated at 48 Ameshoff Street in Braamfontein.

African News Agency/ANA