MunicipalNews

Sixty-seven arrested after City sweeps hijacked properties

JOBURG – As of August last year, almost 4 000 people now live on the city's streets and while more hijacked buildings are raided, the need for 30 000 living units for the city's most vulnerable households grows.

Close to 400 have already been arrested, a suspected kingpin will face trial, and some buildings have been returned to their rightful owners as the City of Johannesburg continues its raids on hijacked properties.

The latest raid led to the arrest of 67 alleged undocumented immigrants on 24 January in three hijacked and so-called bad properties in Hillbrow.

These are but three of the 500 bad buildings in the inner city, about 134 of which have been confirmed as hijacked. Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba said 24 of the 500 bad buildings belong to the City.

Since only July last year, almost 400 people, including a suspected hijacking kingpin and his accomplices, have been arrested. Jonathan Constable, Bongani Khathide and Kingsley Okwebe have since appeared in court and were denied bail.

The raids are normally interdepartmental, with both South African police and Metro police involved.

Mashaba said Home Affairs’ immigration officers are expected to approach those arrested for relevant information. Home Affairs’ commitment was, however, questioned last year.

After two stern warnings and the threat of court action against the department, Mashaba announced that the City and the department will be part of a joint committee that will deal with illegal immigration.

Once the joint committee has finalised its work, Mashaba said, he will meet with the Minister of Home Affairs, Ayanda Dlodlo, to consider and approve the plan.

The shortage of affordable housing, combined with the increase in the number of hijacked buildings, has left Joburg’s inner city in dire straits. As of August last year, almost 4 000 people now live on the city’s streets and the need for 30 000 living units for the city’s most vulnerable households grows.

Last year, the council decided that 12 buildings would be made available for low-cost housing development. Three more former hijacked buildings were also returned to their rightful owners.

“Criminals must know that they might run but there is no place for them to hide in Johannesburg,” Mashaba said.

“It is essential that we bring back the rule of law to our city and take it back from the criminal elements such as landlords who take advantage of desperate people and house them under deplorable conditions.

We are committed to ensuring that we stop the rot in our inner city and make it a prosperous and inclusive place for our people to live work and play.”

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