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SHARP-talking salesmen with a dubious history are reportedly selling municipal land they do not own in Soweto.
So far these "fraudsters" have pocketed at least R22,5million from desperate home-seekers.
Sowetan's readers alerted us to the scam, fingering Graham Sifiso Masondo and Thabo Mokoena of Siyakha Home Builders, who operate from 1086 Ameyane Street in Senaoane.
The Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) has confirmed that Masondo and Mokoena fraudulently sold parcels of the city's land to gullible and unsuspecting consumers.
The two have allegedly pocketed about R22,5million from 300 people after allegedly selling stands for R75000 each between 2007 and April 2009.
Steven Sekoathe of Mondeor says Mokoena approached him 18 months ago and said he was selling a stand for R75000. Mokoena told him the land belonged to Masondo.
"Mokoena said he had sold land to hundreds of people in Naledi, Dobsonville and Diepkloof. He told us to pay R5000 to secure a stand and we foolishly did," Sekoathe said.
The balance of the money was later deposited into Masondo's trust account. Six months later Sekoathe went to Masondo's office to get his title deed but found the salesman had no documents for the property.
"For 18 months Masondo has been telling us lies and calling us to his office for meetings he never honoured," Sekoathe said.
Johanna Mbatha is another victim. The mother of three rents a house and is about to be evicted because her lease has expired. She said Mokoena tricked her into buying a stand in Dobsonville in March.
"He told me it was not a scam and that I would be a fool not to take advantage because it was a giveaway," Mbatha said.
Last Friday she went to the police to lay a fraud charge against Masondo and Mokoena.
Hector Makhubo of the JPC's legal department said the cases had been forwarded to the company's legal officer and to management. Makhubo said they were working hard to crack these cases.
Masondo is no stranger to controversy.
In 2005 he was accused of swindling about 60 people in another bogus property deal by pretending to be an estate agent for the city of Johannesburg.
Mokoena admitted he had sold land, but he said his office had thousands of files of people who had bought land from them. He said Masondo was the rightful owner of the plots in Soweto .
He could not recall Sekoathe, he said, because he had sold land to thousands of people .
When Sowetan told him we had a deed search that showed the land they sold to Sekoathe and Mbatha did not belong to them, he said he would not withhold their money.
"We did not know they had a problem. They should have approached us and we would have given them a refund there and then," Mokoena said.
But he was not in his office on Saturday when Sekoathe went to collect his money.
Messages left on Masondo's three lines - two cellphones and his office line - had not been returned by yesterday.
An assistant at his office said he has been attending to a "crisis since Friday and has not been to the office today".
Gauteng Consumer Affairs' Sam Tebele said they were investigating several complaints against Masondo and his dealings. He said after receiving the first two complaints, their investigations had revealed that more people had been scammed.
He said Masondo neither had a permit to sell the city's land nor a mandate to do so.