Gauteng’s housing backlog is estimated at 500 000 units — and illegal sales of RDP houses are in the tens of thousands.
“Government is currently sitting with 30 000 cases of illegally sold RDP houses and the number of cases reported escalate year on year,” said Dikgang Moiloa, the MEC for housing in Gauteng.
“This is a huge problem and it is something that we as government cannot solve alone; we need people to report these cases to the police,” he said.
There are strict conditions governing the sale of an RDP house, introduced in 2015 by former minister of human settlements Lindiwe Sisulu after claims that the sale of RDP houses was on the rise.
According to the Housing Amendment Act, a beneficiary may not sell the house within the first eight years of having taken occupation.
“The reason for this is because a title deed is issued to the legitimate beneficiary and if you buy the house and it still belongs to the rightful owner and it is not easy to change the title deed if the house was sold out within the period of eight years,” Moiloa said.
Should the beneficiary wish to sell the house after eight years, the government has first option.
If a beneficiary dies without a will, the government may allocate the house to the beneficiary’s dependents or next of kin.
And should a house be sold, a letter of authority from the deeds office must be attached to the sale agreement.
Thandi Molotsane*, a security guard who works in Pretoria, recently bought an RDP house. She said her daughter saw an advert for the house, priced at R145 000, on the internet. The estate agent was Kopano Khoza.
Molotsane was given seven days to make the payment into the account of attorney SS Mogano.
“I was told some of it would be used to clear any outstanding municipal arrears on the house and for her access to ownership documents,” Molotsane says.
She transferred the cash into the attorney’s trust account after viewing the property.
But things then took a bad turn.
“I went to show the kids the house the one day and I approached one of the neighbours at her gate. During our conversation, I mentioned that I had just bought the house and that I would be moving in soon. The neighbour was surprised … and said there was another buyer who came the week before and said they were also moving in,” said Molotsane.
It was the beginning of a nightmare. The neighbour also said that the previous owner, Mary Letswalo, had died several years ago and the house was not for sale.
Molotsane said Khoza had not told her that the house belonged to a deceased person.
“As soon as I heard that, I got worried and phoned him immediately to cancel the sale but he has since been avoiding me.”
Molotsane said Khoza had told her that Letswalo was old and wanted to move from Mamelodi and that she was currently living in Refilwe, east of Pretoria.
Letswalo died in 2012 but documents, including copies that are in the possession of the Mail & Guardian, show the sale agreement was signed by a Mary Letswalo, who is identified as the seller.
Molotsane said the documents, which are dated May this year, were signed at Mogano’s offices.
The M&G tracked down someone close to the Letswalo family, who confirmed that both the photograph in the copy of Letswalo’s ID document and the signature on the sale agreement were not hers.
After several failed attempts to reach Mogano and Khoza, Molotsane reported the matter to the Law Society of South Africa.
“When I got to the Law Society, I was told that there were 15 other complaints against SS Mogano and there were an additional three people who came to report the firm on the same day on the same issue,” Molotsane said. The Law Society said all its investigations were confidential and therefore it could not provide details of complaints. But it did acknowledge it had received complaints about Mogano, although it would not disclose the number.
A source at the Law Society said Mogano had been given until the end of July to reply.
Simon Mogano, the owner of SS Mogano, admitted he knew Molotsane but refused to comment on the allegations made by her.
“I have been in contact with her and I gave her money back,” he said.
Molotsane said she received only R50 000 from him and was waiting for him to pay the outstanding R95 000.
“I called him on Monday and he said I should not talk to him anymore because I have reported him to the Law Society. I have now resorted to reaching out to Khoza and he promised to call Mogano to get me my money back,” Molotsane said.
Khoza hung up when the M&G called to ask about Molotsane’s case.
A subsequent call to Khoza by the M&G, posing as a possible buyer, revealed that he sells houses from deceased estates, auctions and couples who have separated.
Molotsane tried to report the matter to the police, without success. She was told she had to prove that Letswalo was dead for her to open a case of fraud.
*This is a pseudonym. Thulebona Mhlanga is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the Mail & Guardian