A group called Concerned Residents of Pretoria West said the people who allegedly hijacked the buildings falsified title deeds and occupied the houses illegally. It is believed that the properties were hijacked after a fire in 1997 gutted the then municipal headquarters, Munitoria, destroying property ownership records.
The residents accused Gauteng Premier David Makhura of siding with the slumlords in the property tug of war. Makhura visited Pretoria West last week after the issue of the hijacked properties came to light.
Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee, who was with the premier, said: “This is simple criminality. The rightful owners have verified title deeds and these thugs just want to bully them.”
He said 80 properties had been hijacked in Pretoria West. He promised action and said the law would ensure the properties were returned to their rightful owners.
A concerned resident said: “How is it that these slumlords own so much property in Pretoria West? When did they receive the title deeds, because Munitoria burnt down with the documents?
“These houses belonged to no one. People living there should just pay rates and taxes straight to the municipality and not to any bogus landlord,” he said.
One of the tenants said he had been renting a house in Luttig Street for the past two decades. He and other tenants claimed the properties were owned by corrupt individuals who collected up to R2 5000 a month in rentals. He claimed a highly-organised syndicate monitored most of the properties in Pretoria West.
Another resident accused Makhura of taking sides in the “tug of war” for houses in the area.
“The premier should listen to both sides of the story about those houses. People can't carry on living in squalor while the slumlords are claiming unlawful ownership,” he said.
However, property owner and chairperson of the Vision 2019 committee, Ridwan Osman, said business owners purchased most of the properties through auctions. “We have proof of purchase and title deeds to prove it.
“It cannot be that our tenants pay rent to bogus landlords while we watch.”
Tenants of the properties were intimidated by the hijackers, who introduced themselves as the new owners, he said. They told the tenants they would be paying less to stay there, he added.
He said the committee was established to put a stop to racism in the area.
He admitted that there was tension between various racial groups, which in some instances, resulted in violence. “Pretoria West has become a war zone because of the property fight.
Charges were pending at the Pretoria West police station, he said, and eviction orders had been granted and the hijackers interdicted.
On Sunday, a fight broke out between the two groups. Adeleke Isiaka alleged that violent men took all his belongings, including R7 000, a plasma TV and valuables - attributed to the ongoing war.
Makhura’s spokesperson Castro Ngobese, said: “We serve all the people of Gauteng equally, irrespective of skin pigmentation or creed. One of our key mandates is to build a non-racial society.”
He said investigations were ongoing and at the appropriate time, the premier would visit the area again and give feedback. “We will make sure that we issue the report soon.”