He moves from one RDP housing issue to the next without batting an eye - there is no query that Jack Phahlane, 50, has not heard before.
One man has come to ask what procedure to follow where one title deed owner has died and her so called in-laws have taken over the house. Lucky Petunia Morobe is finally moving into a house she never knew she had until Phahlane found it for her last week.
Although he says he has become persona non grata at the Tshwane Metro Council, many residents, aggrieved or not, seem to worship him. His supporters say he has sorted out numerous RDP housing disputes.
Others, such as Georgina Matabane, a Lotus Gardens resident who was left homeless after being evicted from a house she occupied illegally, argue that Phahlane is a troublemaker who has brought misery to many.
After hearing claims that he had sorted out more than 1 678 matters, a Pretoria News team spent a day with Phahlane and saw him in action.
Head of the Community Policing Forum (CPF) in Atteridgeville’s Extension 7, he started out as a chairman and whistle-blower for the forum about six years ago.
“Through word-of-mouth and referrals, this job became something of full-time employment. And it’s not a safe job,” he said. He keeps a shotgun close.
He can give a call centre a run for its money - he gets about 10 calls an hour. Phahlane is so in demand that his front door is walled up with bricks. “People used to knock on this door at the most ungodly hours,” he said.
First stop, a site with illegal buildings. Three houses without water or electricity have been erected on the site and residents in the area are at their wits’ end.
“We have spoken to the owners and their explanation is that they need to be close to their places of work and can therefore not move (from) here. From our findings, this is a no man’s site, but it is clear there is agreement between them and the city council. Ward 68 councillor Victor Rambau and 71’s Makopo Makula’s names keep coming up in our investigations,” Phahlane said.
Rambau denied the allegations: “What these people are saying is not correct. They are desperate. They don’t attend meetings. They would rather be misled. I doubt if we would have been elected again if people thought we were corrupt,” he said. “How come none of these people have opened cases against us? I used to work with Phahlane until he got out of order.”
Phahlane and his aides received a pile of files from a city council official who had been “sent to shred” this important bag of evidence by some nameless officials.
“From these forms, we are able to ascertain who the original owners of the houses in Lotus Gardens and here in Atteridgeville, are,” he explained.
Second stop, Extension 7 and the heart-wrenching story of a semi-castle that should not have been built.
The RDP house had been wrongfully awarded to a recipient who did not waste any time renovating and extending it. Now it boasts three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge lounge, a dining room, a state-of-the art kitchen and a double garage. But it is empty.
“I tried to stop this man from wasting his money. I left numerous messages for him to stop the building as the house was under a court order, but he didn’t come to me until the house was finished. Clearly the builders, fearing loss of business, never told him.
“The original owner, still only known as Esther, rents a room in the vicinity and the Zimbabwean, who renovated the house, have not reached an agreement. In the meeting I’m going to have with both next week, I’m going to suggest that the two owners get a tenant to pay rent to the original owner until the renovator has been paid his debt.”
In Lotus Gardens Extension 4, Johanna Nkuna got the shock of her life when, after she had been living in her house for four years, she was told she was living in someone else’s.
Instead of house No 3445, she should have occupied No 3007. A number was written on one of the title deed forms and Phahlane read it out to her. “I thought this was just a reference number,” she said.
“No this is the number of your real house. This one has its owner waiting to move into it.”
At No 3007, an angry Happy Malata insisted that he had the title deed to the house, though he could not produce the papers. He will be given an eviction order from court.
With supporting material such as title deeds, affidavits and letters of motion from the CPF, Phahlane is able to get legal eviction papers from court.
The Pretoria News also heard allegations that implicate Tshwane councillors in a “sex for houses” scandal. “Many women report that their application forms were torn up when they refused to sleep with these city council officials,” said Phahlane’s assistant, Thomas Mabaso.
Christina Kobo, 50, has experience of this. The only documentation she has left after a ward councillor tore up her papers when she refused to sleep with him in 1997 is her affidavit.
“I cannot believe that I am still a tenant at an RDP house and my neighbours have title deeds when I have been waiting since 1997 for my own house,” she said. “Some have extended their houses and I’m stuck here because I would not prostitute myself for a house.”
Kobo, who pays R800 rent, said some of her neighbours come from as far as Meadowlands and Kroonstad. “They are living purposeful lives, they can have their traditional ceremonies and water their gardens and I have been given a notice to vacate. This is sad.”
Many of her neighbours have removed house numbers from their houses. It is evident some have something to hide.
“That man and his CPF are tainting the city’s name. Our government does not recognise it. Makula and I have talked about these allegations but we are not bothered,” said Rambau. - Pretoria News