Cosmo City of Tenants
The investigation into the repossession of houses in Cosmo City has uncovered a massive 188 houses that were said to have been unceremoniously repossessed and auctioned at the Krugersdorp’s Sheriff. The turmoil that was happening in the economy was never considered by the banks and the human aspect was seemingly disregarded in the manner these repossessions were being conducted. This is in sharp contrast with what the banks say about how they use/see repossessions as the last resort. In earlier reports this paper reported that all four banks say repossession is the last resort after all avenues to assist their distressed clients have been exhausted. In the many instances of the 188 house repos discovered so far, (tip of the iceberg) it appears houses were fast tracked to the Sheriff’s office for auction apparently to a few well connected bidders styled “Investors”. Some such investors are said to own up to 30 or sixty houses each, fast turning Cosmo City into a place of tenants.
The complaints coming out of the investigation are being compiled for further investigation. One old lady (in her 60s) had her house repossessed without her being fully aware that her house was being taken away from her. She even eventually went to the auction to try and buy her house back only to be told that her house had been sold the night before. The old lady’s belongings were eventually thrown in to the street in a humiliating eviction. In other cases, due to varying circumstances, victims would be paying amounts less than the prescribed instalments but still would lose their homes. In the other cases, seemingly the majority, victims would be refused to make payment arrangements but instead were asked to either pay the whole 3 months arrears or an increased instalment for them to serve their homes from being repossessed. We have also heard complaints of files being reconstructed after not being found in the courts registry, and complaints of court documents/writs which signed off homes to auctions without officials (judges) even seeing the victims.
In a recent article written by the African News Agency, the secretary general of the SACP Blade Nzimande raised his organisation’s concerns about house repossessions saying “It was estimated that around 10 000 homes a year were being repossessed by the banks. This level of eviction can only be comparable to apartheid-era group areas removals. The homes are then sold at auction, very often at a fraction of their market value. The worst case scenario involved a house sold at R10, and a house taken away for nothing but corruption involving the concoction of title deeds; the owner was dispossessed and jailed for a while. All this is inhuman,” Nzimande said at the launch of the SACP’s Red October campaign.
“The SACP would raise with the National Treasury the whole processes relating to bank repossession of people’s houses with a view to instituting an investigation. The SACP is calling for corrective regulatory and legislative steps to build a humane system of handling these matters in a way that puts people first.” Nzimande concluded by saying the “The SACP would also ask Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to institute an investigation into the whole process of authorisation of house repossessions.
Cosmo City, as a case in point, has raised this matter with various institutions, including the Department of Justice. The investigation will soon be handed over to experts. We are worried by the silence from the Sheriffs’ Board who did not bother to respond to critical questions since February this. A new Sheriffs’ board of directors was appointed in March this year by the Minister of Justice Michael Masuta. “In line with the Department of Justice’s commitment to transform the sheriff’s industry, Minister Michael Masutha has appointed 11 members to serve on the newly constituted South African Board of Sheriffs.
In terms of the Sheriffs Act (Act 90 of 1986), the Minister is responsible for the appointment of sheriffs, as well as the appointment of the chairperson of the board. “The board comprises six male and five female members from various provinces in the country,” Department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said then.
There is one major question which we asked the Sheriff and she refused to answer “ How many Cosmo houses were sold in execution at that office” to date we have not received an answer. The institions which should be shedding light to this matter are shutting their doors as if they are hiding something – that is what makes want to see whats inside.
Last week, a man, living separately with his ex-girlfriend and two children, allegedly came into the room of his ex girlfriend where she was sleeping with her children and two other sisters. He brought petrol with him which he, after an argument, is thought to have sprinkled around the room and then set it alight. “The suspect, the lady (ex-girlfriend) and one child passed away due to the burns” said the police in a written statement. “Cases of Murder and Attempted Murder were opened at the Honeydew SAPS” said the statement.
Fellow tenants at the house were shocked by the incident and still have nightmares they say. “The man must have locked the door from inside and we could not open the door when we heard the woman screaming and shouting for help between 5 and 6am in the morning” said one woman who witnessed the whole incident and also even tried to open the locked door. When the door was eventually opened the victims came out severely burnt. “Ambulances were called but were late and community members drove the victims to hospital in private cars” she said.
Meanwhile later in the same week: A young man was found murdered and his body was discovered in the early hours of Saturday. The SAPS 6am shift was called to attend to the scene. The body was discovered on the passage between the Hlanganani complex and the shopping centre which is being built. The police brief had this to say “It is alleged that two brothers were walking at the corner of Cairo and Egypt streets, Cosmo City. They were approached by a group of four to five armed men. A shot was fired by one of the suspects that fatally wounded the one brother. The police is investigating that the suspects might have been the same suspects that robbed the spaza shop in the same street just before the shooting. A case of Business Robbery and Murder are being investigated by the Honeydew SAPS” ended the brief.
Last Saturday, community leaders and church leaders, Region C social Services, SAPS social crimes, Correctional Services and Road Traffic management participated in the Anti Drugs march in Cosmo. The campaign, which was organized by a CDW plenary team included Pastor Vuyani Gxagxama and Ward committee member Skhumbuzo Nxumalo. They were joined by the Drug Free world, a nongovernmental organisation which fights drug abuse and other substance abuse. The march, which started from the corner of Ukraine and South Africa Drive, proceeded all the way to the Mutlipurpose Centre where delegates addressed the community in the Hall.
Also supporting the march was the Family and Friends Motorcycle Club. (MCC). They added to the spectacle with their motor bikes which they raved loud, often in rhythm, which brought people out of their houses to watch. Shaleen Wohrnitz of Drug Free World said many people do not know the extent of effects caused by drugs. “In many cases even drug users themselves have no idea what kind of damage they cause to themselves by using these substances and it usually is a relief to see them taking positive decisions after the full extent of damage caused by drugs is explained to them.” She said.
Other stakeholders involved with the march include the SAPS social crimes, which was represented by constable Ramalata and Kholofelo supported by Brigadier Silkhort.
The march was considered a success as many people accepted reading material which explained the dangers of substance abuse. The Meridian students also participated in the campaign also sending a message to their age group that drugs are a danger and that they should stay away from them.
In the last week of May the MMC for Finance Clr. Geoffrey Makhubo presented the City of Johannesburg’s 2015/2016 budget. A whopping R52.6billion budget made up of R42.7 billion operating expenditure budget and R9.9billion for capital expenditure. MMC Makhubo also appropriated a three year capital budget of R29billion to 2017/2018.
Following the theme introduced by the Mayor in his State of The City Address, that today must be better than yesterday and tomorrow should also be better than today, MMC Makhubo went on to present a budget which many accepted albeit with others pointing missed opportunities here and there. Makhubo said the budget was in response to the calls of the City’s residents.
DA PR Councillor Funzi Ngobeni said in a written statement,”residents of Cosmo City and Itsoseng are some of the City of Johannesburg residents who didn’t form part of the IDP process and this was reflected by the outcomes of 2015/2016 Budget that was delivered by MMC Geoffrey Makhabu”.
Ngobeni was referring to the Ward’s IDP process meeting which was cancelled by the City without any explanation being given thereafter. “Up until this day no explanation has been given by the City on why Ward 100 IDP Meeting, which was scheduled for the 14 April 2015, was cancelled indefinitely” said Cllr. Ngobeni. The Municipal Systems Act emphasizes community participation in the IDP process. “It’s for this reason that we strongly believe that the cancelled IDP process was not only unfair to residents, but was also a lost opportunity for the City to take into account the urgent needs and aspirations of Ward 100 residents” Ngobeni explained.
“However, we welcome the Capital Expenditure plan for 2015/16 financial year. We welcome among others the R15 million set aside for Malibongwe Ridge New Bulk Infrastructure. We hope that with this allocation, the City will move swiftly to complete and allocate the houses to the desperately waiting beneficiaries.
We also welcome the R30 million allocated for Land acquisition of the much needed Cosmo City Fire Station” Cllr. Ngobeni enthused.
Ward 100 councillor Mme Raphata could not be reached by the time of going to press. She has not been feeling well recently.
The disappointment for Cosmo City is that the City seems to have once again ignored the calls for a Public Clinic and a fully-fledged Police Station in Ward 100.