Pretoria - Five men masquerading as officials from the City of Tshwane made a failed attempt to grab a piece of land belonging to the municipality at Faerie Glen, east of Pretoria, on Sunday.
Ward 44 councillor Ernst Botha said the men were building a brick-and-mortar structure when community members questioned them about the legality of their activity.
The cost of the land, located on the corner of Haymeadow and Plaston streets in the suburb, was estimated at R500000, according to Botha.
He said: “They were wearing overalls and boots. You would think they were legitimate. I thought no something is wrong here. They were not driving in the City of Tshwane marked vehicles.”
The men arrived in a Mercedes-Benz and a Range Rover and allegedly told residents they were purchasing the land from the municipality.
“I immediately contacted the MMC for Roads and Transport (Sheila Lynn Senkubuge) from the site, who confirmed my position that no municipal land was sold to these people,” he said.
Botha said the bogus officials tried to smooth-talk the people that they were from the metro. “They told people that they were from the City. I am not sure which municipality they were talking about.”
He said they became aggressive when they were told that their land occupation was illegal.
Botha said they also claimed to be implementing the City's programme called Adopt a Spot which encourages people to adopt a piece of unoccupied land and take care of it.
According to Botha, the men said they were not going to leave until an agreement was reached to meet them during the week.
“I said we can't meet people who are thugs unless they can prove they are owners of an agreement ,” he said.
Residents in the area had taken a decision to close off the site and Botha said the action had already received a nod from the municipality.
“This had become a drug nest to be quite honest. Drug dealing has been going on here because it is a quiet street and nobody can suspect anything.”
He said it was difficult to establish where they came from, but the negotiator claimed to be living in Waterkloof.
“One of the vehicles had Mozambican (registration) number plates,” he said.
Botha suspected somebody had been duped into buying a vacant piece of land under the pretext that the deal was legitimate.
“Somebody has already lost money based on good faith; it is probably somebody who wanted to own a property,” he said.
MMC for Community Safety Derrick Kissoonduth said the metro police officers would be dispatched to the site.
“The officers did not necessarily demolish the structure, but they were at the site today (yesterday). The structure is demolished by a service provider,” he said.
Botha said members of the community policing forum had been mobilised to patrol the area.
He said the community could make a request for the land to be used as a park for children to play in.
“Maybe this is a good time to do something about it. We will have to go through the motion of getting this converted,” Botha said.