Law enforcement agencies have been brought on board as the City tackles the inner city problems of building hijacking and slumlording.
THE City’s building hijacking task team has joined forces with law enforcement agencies to put an end to slumlording in the inner city.
William Pudikabekwa, Region F's manager for propertyWilliam Pudikabekwa, Region F's manager for properties and special investigationsThe task team, which has been investigating the criminal side of building hijackings for the past two years, is working hand-in-hand with the South African Police Service, the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority, the South African Revenue Services and the Asset Forfeiture Unit to stop the illegal occupation of abandoned buildings.
The combined team will help speed up the prosecution of transgressors, according to Region F’s manager of properties and special investigation, William Pudikabekwa.
So far, 398 people have been arrested for hijacking abandoned buildings in the inner city, he adds. Some of the suspects were sentenced to two years in prison, while others were fined up to R20 000.
In a recent incident, hijackers were arrested in Safton Court, an abandoned building in Plein Street. “There has been notable progress since we started,” Pudikabekwa says.
“Illegal occupation of property is a serious crime. These people fraudulently transfer buildings into their names.”
The process to bring building hijackers to book is tedious, he explains. Once the task team has established evidence against building hijackers, this evidence is forwarded to the law enforcement agencies, which in turn issue a notice or court interdict to evacuate illegal occupants.
Building hijackers are arrested as soon as evidence is available. They then appear in court and, if found guilty, they either receive a direct conviction or a fine.
In a bid to halt building hijackings, the City takes over ownership of abandoned buildings, according to the Region F regional manager of legal and special investigations unit, Louis Geldenhuys.
His unit fast tracks urban management problems relating to by-law contraventions in the inner city, and its sole purpose is to resolve the scourge of bad buildings.
Building owners run away because they still owe the City money for its services, he explains.
“The number of bad buildings on the City’s database has escalated from 800 to 1 380, with legal action being taken in 460 cases.”
And there is still more to be done, according to Geldenhuys.
In clearing up hijacked buildings, the City has to find an alternative accommodation for residents in terms of High Court and Constitutional Court rulings. “This procedure takes a lot of time,” he says.
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