DESPERATE: Despite owning an RDP home, Siphiwe Shongwe has been forced to live in a shack in the informal settlement of Lindelani. 
Picture: Khaya Koko
An Ekurhueni shack dweller has been left shocked to learn of a R20000 municipal rates bill which accumulated over 20 years for a property she never lived on or knew she owned.

A distressed Siphiwe Shongwe only discovered in 2010 that she owned an RDP house in Tsakane Extension 11 after being refused credit owing to the “mystery” debt.

Upon further enquiries at a municipal office in Brakpan, Shongwe was told the house was registered in her name, and given a bill of R16659.

A document from the Johannesburg Registrar of Deeds confirmed she had owned the property since October 1997.

The 51-year-old lives in a shack at the Lindelani informal settlement. Her two sons also have shacks there.

Shongwe said she went with her brother to the house she owned to speak to the occupants in 2010.

“When we asked them how they managed to get this house because I’m the rightful owner, I was told they bought the house from the councillor, Morris Chauke,” she said.

Chauke is currently the chairperson of the council’s ethics and integrity committee.

Ekurhuleni spokesperson Themba Gadebe also confirmed that Shongwe owned a house in Tsakane, adding that she was liable for the property’s debt.

“The outstanding balance is R24410 and R21153 of that amount was handed over to debt collectors. Payments received were insufficient and irregular. In the past seven years, only R6900 was received,” Gadebe said.

He couldn’t say who had made the payments over the last seven years, and would not answer questions as to whether the city ensured occupants of a property were the rightful owners of it.

On the allegations against Chauke, Gadebe said: “The allegations concerning Chauke are not true. There is a long history to this matter dating as far back as 1995, which led to the councillor being arrested on three occasions and on all three the case against him was withdrawn.

“Shongwe also pursued a civil case against him with the assistance of the Legal Aid Board and the application was dismissed on July 17, 2012.”

But Shongwe disputed the claims she had pursued a civil case against Chauke, saying she had approached Legal Aid for assistance to get an eviction order so she could get her house.

An eviction notice dated August 2010, seen by The Star, was served on the occupants the same year, to no avail.

“When we arrived at the house, the occupants refused to sign the order. I returned with the police as per instruction of Legal Aid. When I went back to Legal Aid to find out what had happened, I was informed my case number had somehow disappeared.”

Shongwe said her health had suffered greatly. She is a chronic diabetic and had to live with her family in a shack she does not even own. “When I die due to my chronic diabetes, I will leave my children with no place to live. That pains me.”