Stolen homes: Residents force municipality’s hand

Hundreds of Mpumalanga residents whose homes were stolen by a syndicate could at last have the matter properly investigated.

The Emalahleni municipality has assured the home owners from KwaGuqa township near Emalahleni (formerly Witbank) that their complaints would be looked into after their march to municipal offices yesterday.

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The residents have lost their houses over the past few years because of what appears to be a network of unscrupulous officials in the municipality, the banks, law firms, courts, estate agencies, the Mpumalanga deeds office and the police.

Emalahleni municipal spokesperson Lebohang Mofokeng said the council would consult all relevant stakeholders in order to find a solution.

“The matter raised needs a thorough investigation and the involvement of other stakeholders like the provincial department of human settlements. Their complaint will be treated as genuine and (will) be afforded and considered, like all complaints that are submitted to the municipality,” Mofokeng said.

The national department of human settlements investigated the scam in 2010, and produced a preliminary report, but nothing was done afterwards.

The residents claim that a sheriff evicted home owners after their properties were auctioned without their knowledge for defaulting on bond payments or had their details expunged from the municipality and the deeds office records.

The owners are charged with trespassing and are sued for rental when they refuse to vacate the houses.

The human settlements department received a sample of seven complaints then but used 54-year-old Elliot Themba’s case as a starting point.

Themba bought his house on 1 166 KwaGuqa Extension 3 for R69 000 in 1995 through a loan from Allied Bank (now ABSA) and paid it off in 2002.

The human settlements report said ABSA threatened to attach Themba’s house in 2001 because he had defaulted on his bond repayments. The bank later withdrew its decision.

The sheriff nonetheless auctioned the house to a company called Sizakaneane for R5 000.

“The team satisfied itself that there was no further judgment between the date of the upliftment and the date of the sale,” the report said.

Themba refused to leave and Sizakaneane received a judgment for unpaid occupational rent amounting to R56 000 in 2008, and the house was sold to an Emalahleni municipal employee, Selati Matlejoane, for R70 000.

Human settlements further said that the court failed to “test ownership of the property before passing judgment”.

Matlejoane also tried in vain to evict Themba until he sold the house to Getrude Mabelane for R420 000.

Themba, who is blind, moved to his daughter’s RDP house in 2010 when he was repeatedly arrested for trespassing.

Themba said that should they not receive a satisfactory response from the municipality by Monday next week, they will take matters into their own hands.

“We’ll evict these people from our houses. What choice do we have? We’ve been asking government to intervene but it seems government officials could be involved in this as they are doing nothing,” he said.


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