File picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Three suspected property hijackers running a child day care centre from a hijacked property have been arrested in Ridgeway, Johannesburg south, mayor Herman Mashaba said on Saturday.

The property owed the city R105 000 for services, he said in a statement.

The arrest followed a sting operation led by the city’s group forensic and investigation service (GFIS) department, working together with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD).

The suspects, all women, were being detained at the Mondeor police station and were expected to appear in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday. They would be charged with trespassing and malicious damage to property, Mashaba said.

"It is alleged that the rightful owner bought the property from Nedbank in September 2015 and had a warrant of ejectment obtained and served by the sheriff on the occupier, who was the previous owner of the property," he said.

The previous owner agreed to adhere to the order and move out within 10 days of having been served, but never moved out. In March this year, an eviction order was executed and security officers were appointed to guard the property. On the same evening the previous owner reinvaded the property and had the security officers arrested and charged with malicious damage to property.

"I am delighted that another property owner has finally gained control of their property which was in the hands of the hijackers. This brings the total number of properties handed back to their rightful owners to 28.

"Criminals must know that they might run, but there is no place for them to hide in Johannesburg. Operation Buya Mthetho remains determined to ensuring that the rule of law is restored to our communities.

"My administration will leave no stone unturned in ridding the city of 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 the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies.

"It is essential that we restore 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," Mashaba said.

African News Agency/ANA