File photo: Matthews Baloyi

The man who has been accused of being the kingpin behind the sale of properties on illegal land in Lenasia says he is a hero – not a villian.

Last week Lenasia Concerned Residents’ Association chairman Lazarus Baloyi said the authorities had not arrested the alleged kingpin, who he identified only as “Globes”. Baloyi refused to give the Saturday Star the man’s full name.

Now Galieb Essop, the man who claims he is known as “Globes”, says he is not involved in the sale of properties built illegally on government land. Essop, who is both an estate agent and chairman of the organisation known as People Opposing Illegal Land Invasions, says he did not sell nor did he own any properties in Lenasia’s extension 13, extension four or any of the areas recently earmarked for demolitions.

“I am not involved in the sale of land. I buy and sell properties. I have never bought a council-owned property.

“I buy houses from private individuals and sell them. I have 16 properties in Lenasia and not in Lenasia South. I do not have any properties where demolitions have taken place,” he said.

Baloyi said last week that “Globes”, who was a Community Policing Forum member, was untouchable and had not been arrested as yet. According to Essop, the Lenasia matter dated back to 2006 when an organisation known as Wildebeesfontein Farm Evaton Community Organisation was registered as an NGO to fight land claims. This organisation identified a number of areas in the south of Joburg that were part of the original Wildebeesfontein farm and were therefore subject to a land claim.

It then encouraged people to take ownership of their land and deposit money into the organisation’s account.

The Hawks investigated this organisation in 2010, leading to the arrests of several people.

Essop said he was central to that investigation because he was a member of the ANC ward committee and had been concerned about a full-page advert in a Sunday tabloid newspaper. He attended meetings held by the organisation and because he asked awkward questions about its modus operandi, he was assaulted and laid charges at the police station.

“Nothing happened as the police were also part of the syndicate. The matter was never taken to court nor investigated,” he said, saying it was clear that the organisation was bogus and designed to rip off the residents.

His organisation, People Opposing Illegal Land Invasions, and he, as a member of the group, became unpopular.

“We took a very harsh stand on this and this is why today these people are fighting us.”

In May this year, People Opposing Illegal Land Invasions drafted a petition, with more than 500 signatures collected from residents who were “tired” of the land grabs that were devaluing their properties. The petition was handed to Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane. In hindsight, Essop said while the people gave the government a mandate to take decisive action regarding the illegal development, they were not involved in how the Department of Housing executed the demolitions.

“We didn’t ask for the government to break down people’s houses. We only said it must take responsibility,” he added.

He said he now feared for his life and for those of two colleagues, who were constantly intimidated for exposing corruption by stand owners and government public officials.

Essop said that he had to hire bodyguards, adding that those who were guilty should be held accountable. -Saturday Star