/ 26 May 2017

East Rand RDP houses sold illegally

Up for grabs: the rules of the court still do not permit the setting of a reserve price to stop people's homes being auctioned for trifling amounts.
Up for grabs: the rules of the court still do not permit the setting of a reserve price to stop people's homes being auctioned for trifling amounts.

Lindiwe Ndlovu* owes the Ekurhuleni metro R18 000 in unpaid municipal services.

The debt is for an RDP house registered in her name, yet she has never lived in it. She was allocated the house in Tsakane in 1996 but only found out about it in 2010. She is not alone.

Mandla Sibiya* says he was also duped in 2007 when he bought a stand in Tsakane. He has receipts purportedly signed by a councillor.

Sibiya rents an RDP house nearby, where he keeps the proof of payment and a plan for his dream house folded and tucked in among his clothes in his wardrobe.

Ndlovu said: “I received a call from a blacklisting company saying I was owing the municipality for unpaid municipal services. I asked how was that possible because I don’t own any RDP house.”

*The Mail & Guardian is withholding Ndlovu and Sibiya’s real names at their request for fear of victimisation. The two named the councillor they claim was involved but he could not be reached for comment.

The illegal sale of RDP houses appears rife in the metro. This week, the high court in Pretoria heard a matter between hundreds of Winnie Mandela informal settlement residents and the Ekurhuleni metro. The residents, represented by the Socioeconomic Rights Institute (Seri), are demanding that the metro rectify the wrongful allocation of RDP houses and stands.

Ekurhuleni metro spokesperson Themba Gadebe said the municipality had taken a tough stance on housing corruption.

“We are currently engaging forensic auditors to verify housing lists dating back from 1996 as well as allocation. We are working with Gauteng human settlements to verify allocation of houses and waiting lists.”

He urged residents “not to fall victim to people who sell subsidy houses illegally”. Instead, he said, they should report cases to them for the law to take its course.

In correspondence attached to court documents in Seri’s case against it, Ekurhuleni said houses and stands were being “illegally occupied” because of “corruption, fraud and/or bribery”.

Ndlovu was advised to verify the information with the municipality.

“When I went there, a statement was printed and confirmed that the house in Tsakane was in my name.

“I went to the house with my brother and cousin. We found a woman who said the house was bought by her husband, who bought the house from [the councillor]. We asked to talk to her husband but we were told he was ill and we were unable to see him. We understood and left,” she said.

Ndlovu then confronted the councillor.

“We kept going back to the house but there wasn’t much movement. Meanwhile [the councillor] kept sending me from pillar to post. He kept promising to set up a meeting between me and this family but it never happened. Instead he saw us separately on the same day.”

Fed up, and with her boss threatening to fire her for spending too much time on the matter, she gave up.

“So, as a single parent, I decided to save my job rather than chase after a house. That’s when I gave up. After a while I approached Legal Aid for assistance. They then gave me an eviction order to give the family. I went to the house accompanied by the police but they refused to sign the order. The police signed it and took it back to Legal Aid. Nothing has happened ever since.”

Sibiya said he had responded to an advert in a newspaper advertising property stands for sale in Tsakane. “The advert said interested parties should get in touch with the Tsakane office. [The councillor’s] number was the number to contact for details.”

After being shown several stands, Sibiya said he had selected one and had paid R16 000.

“I paid the money in cash and asked for the receipts. I also asked him [the councillor] to sign on it, to which he duly obliged,” Sibiya said.

He planned to use part of his provident fund to build his dream house, but his joy was short-lived.

“For the fund to give you the money, you must provide a certified copy of your ID and the title deed. That’s was where I realised there was something wrong. The title deed for the property was not in my name … I further queried and realised the stand was registered after I purchased the plot.”

Sibiya then went to his stand and discovered that, in the intervening period, a house had been built on it.

“I went back to him [the councillor] and he promised to give me another plot. I was promised a house in Extension 22 but I’m still waiting.”