Unathi Nkanjeni

By Unathi Nkanjeni

Digital Journalist

City councillor among 23 suspects arrested for hijacking a building in Joburg CBD

The city is disappointed its councillor is involved in breaking the law.

A City of Johannesburg councillor is one of the 23 people who have been arrested for hijacking a building.

The city’s mayor, Kabelo Gwamanda, and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) led a sting operation against suspected syndicates illegally occupying and vandalising a municipal property on Wednesday.

The property in question belongs to the city and was purchased in 2019 for R40 million and was intended to be a pound for the JMPD.

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It was identified as a possible temporary accommodation for victims after last week’s fire at Usindiso House, where 77 people died.

Suspects facing theft and vandalism charges

Gwamanda said, after an inspection, it was established there was a team of people on the property who claimed to be contracted by the owner of the building to undertake construction work.

“Today’s operation has resulted in the arrest of 23 suspects amongst whom is a councillor of the city. The suspects face charges of malicious damage to property and city infrastructure, theft and vandalism,” he said.

“According to the preliminary investigation by the JMPD, there are allegations that a senior member of the South African Police Services may be involved in the ongoing invasion of the property.”

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The 23 suspects arrested have been detained at Johannesburg Central Police Station. The JMPD also seized a TLB (tractor loader backhoes), forklift and building equipment.

“Our approach to illegality is now driven with greater urgency and firmness. It’s our intention to ensure that we prevent any further loss of life and disasters in the city as a result of illegally occupied and hijacked buildings.

“We are adopting a zero-tolerance approach and will be extending our operations to target those buildings belonging to the city that are currently in the hands of criminal syndicates,” said Gwamanda.

City’s disappointment

The mayor has ordered the city manager and administration to take the necessary steps to protect and secure the pound and to prevent any further damage to its facilities.

“We will formally communicate to the speaker about the arrest of the councillor and our disappointment that such allegations have arose against the very persons we would expect to be the custodians of city properties and proponents of law and order.”

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