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By unknown | May 15, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Katlego Moeng

Katlego Moeng

Residents of Athlone House in central Johannesburg are sick and tired of the constant bullying by alleged building hijackers and their hired bullies.

They say their tormentors prevent them from entering their homes, extort money and demand to sleep with the women.

Three high court rulings in their favour have failed to protect the residents.

"Security guards from Badboys and another unknown group come into our homes at night and demand to sleep in our beds," said Elsie Pule, a resident of a flat.

Joyce Moyang backed her neighbour's claim.

"It is disgraceful for a man to knock on the door and leave a woman with no security, yet demand to sleep in her bed. We are fed up with this abuse and harassment," said Moyang.

She said the residents had been experiencing these problems since Rhett Cecil Talbert took over their building early last year.

They took him to court and won orders preventing him and his agents from denying them access to their flats, breaking down their doors and demanding money.

Talbert claims he has bought the building. But the residents say he is a hijacker who just took over the dilapidated block of flats.

In the past few weeks, police have issued a warrant of arrest for Talbert. The charges are defying court orders, vandalising the building and intimidating residents.

Another blot is Athlone House which is on a prime spot on the corner of Mooi and Kerk streets. From the outside, it looks much like other buildings in the decaying city centre, except for broken windows on the upper levels.

But walk into the building and your senses are attacked by a foul smell. The foetid damp from leaking water pipes permeates the entire building.

Vandalised stairs in this once-grand block of shops and offices have been crudely patched, toilet seats are smashed and illegal electrical connections festoon the halls. The broken doors to the little warrens occupied by people have been replaced by crude, ill-fitting, makeshift protection.

The building was not built to house tenants and its mangled infrastructure cannot cope with their domestic demands.

Sylvester Maepa, organiser for the Johannesburg Inner City Residents Forum, confirmed that though Talbert claims to be the owner, he could not provide a title deed.

"This man has cut off water and electricity though the residents pay the municipality," Maepa said.

Sowetan has copies of the three high court rulings in December last year and January this year in favour of the residents. The rulings state that the residents should be given back their units and that they should not be restricted from entering the building and their flats until the case has been decided.

"But Rex, the Badboys and the Red Ants ignore the law and evict people illegally," said Maepa.

Badboys Security's Deon de Klerk has dismissed all allegations against his company.

Residents have little protection in the sordid world of hijacked buildings, venal and absentee slumlords who pack tenants like sardines into old office blocks.

Last year, Inspector Sean Twala of Booysens police station was convicted for intimidating flat dwellers and extorting money from them. He was also found guilty of defeating the ends of justice. He was sentenced to 10 years, with six of them suspended for two years.

Lindiwe Mthembu, 37, who to testify against Twala, was shot dead three days before the case.

Other witnesses withdrew in fear and the charges were dropped.


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