Beware of syndicates selling vacant plots illegally, warns MMC
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Roland Mpofu and Nokwanda Ncwane
Johannesburg - Criminal syndicates are taking advantage of the moratorium on evictions during lockdown and are selling vacant plots illegally. As a result, there has been a surge in the number of informal settlements sprouting in Gauteng in the last few months since the outbreak of Covid-19.
The illegal selling and occupation of land has prompted the Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Human Settlements in the City of Joburg, Mlungisi Mabaso, to issue a warning that people who are desperate for land must be wary of the unscrupulous syndicates who are taking advantage of their need for a place to stay.
“You have people who are genuinely looking for places to stay and there are people who have been negatively affected by Covid and they don’t have any source of income. So, they can’t afford to pay rent and they end up going to informal settlements to find places to settle and then there are criminals who are selling these stands.
“And it’s a very organised syndicate. Even today (last Wednesday), I got information that there are people selling stands at Slovo Park for R1 000 to R1 500. So you know they identify a vacant land and then they start to sell the stands. They allocate you the size of the stand according to the money you have paid them.”
Mabaso, an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) councillor, said the criminals brought people together who had paid on a particular day to allocate them stands.
“From our side, we will look at it as an invasion, while people have bought those stands. So you can only discover that when we send in the JMPD (Johannesburg Metro Police Department) to go and respond when there is an invasion, people will say, ‘but we have bought these stands’,” said Mabaso, explaining the modus operandi being used by the land grabbers.
“For example, in Lawley, you had people from Tembisa and Ivory Park being brought in.
“Now the question is, if you are genuinely seeking and seriously looking for a place to stay, will you drive from Region A and pass all these vacant lands and go to Region G? In all these regions, there are vacant pieces of land, so it tells you that there is this organised syndicate of people who are going around taking advantage of our people because they know they are looking for places to stay,” he said.
Asked what the City was doing to stem land invasions, Mabaso said: “We have referred the case to GFIS (Group Forensic and Investigation Service). So this one of Slovo Park, I have already asked one of our directors to go and open a case with the police.”
Asked about the allegations of political parties who had walk-in offices in informal settlements, such as Kokotela in Lawley extension 2, which are parcelling out pieces of land by asking land seekers for a “contribution of something” (selling prices of stands start from R3 000 to R5 000), Mabaso said: “Where I am sitting, I don’t think the leadership of EFF in the province or the national leadership will agree to such nonsense. It’s even worse with the DA because it does not even support the expropriation without compensation. They will never agree to such rubbish.
“That is the information which we need to equip ourselves with when we present to the police.”
However, Mabaso conceded the CoJ, which has a housing backlog of 468 000 units, does not have a policy in place to provide people with serviced stands where they can build their own houses. The City will adopt such a policy in the coming weeks, he said.
Some of the residents who had bought the stands, acknowledged they were aware it was an illegal purchase.
Zanele van Wyk, who has been a resident at Driziek (Orange Farm) since 2018, said: “When we came here we were told that it is just temporary, but we have now built houses and this is the reason why I think development is slow in the area.
“Officials do not set foot here. We are on our own, because even the toilets that our ward councillor provided for us are not cleaned thoroughly. We go for weeks without water because the tanks are empty. There is a lot we are unhappy about.”
Van Wyk, who bought her stand for R3 500, said occupiers had to organise PikItUp themselves. There were no ambulances, the fire and rescue teams, together with the police, couldn’t even navigate in the area when they called them for help because there were no street names.
Paul Mohale, a street committee member who claimed he was the representative of the Mountain View Extension community in Marikana (south of Joburg), said: “The Covid19 pandemic disrupted the government’s plans for service delivery in our area. We asked Mabaso to at least get us water tanks, electricity and other basic services and he promised to come.”
He added the area was registered and that they were there legally.
Jabu Botman, chairperson of DZK 10, also known as Tjovitjo (near Orange Farm), said they heard the land was going to be sold to a private owner and they decided to take it for themselves.
There are over 4500 people who live in Tjovitjo.
Botman also denied plots were sold, although some of the residents claimed they had paid for the stands.