How the mighty fell

Kamogelo Seekoei

Kamogelo Seekoei

Many of the derelict buildings in central Johannesburg were once prime real estate that have deteriorated.

This is because owners handed the buildings over to caretakers, who turned them into their own private gold mines.

Caretakers often neglect their official duties and hijack the buildings, cramming many desperate tenants into small rooms.

This overcrowding places stress on the infrastructure that was initially designed for less people.

The once-proud beautiful buildings end up decaying as all semblance of maintenance is abandoned. Toilets are blocked, windows are broken, doors totter lopsided on broken hinges.

At this juncture, services such as water and electricity as well as refuse collection will have been cut off because of mounting unpaid utility bills.

Some buildings are hijacked by thugs who rent out square metres of floor space at a time.

Residents of San Jose and other nearby buildings say caretakers sometimes pose as owners and even sell flats or rooms to gullible victims.

Jerry Itumeleng lives in the Monterey block of flats near San Jose. He says different slumlords take control of the buildings as they deteriorate even further.

Each slumlord chooses a caretaker to collect rent from the tenants. But Itumeleng says the caretakers often end up pocketing the money.

"They then inform the owners that the tenants are owing and should be evicted," he says.

Itumeleng says many caretakers even defraud tenants by selling the units to them despite not having the title deeds.

"But the municipality knows nothing about these activities and therefore cuts off services when they are not paid for," he says and spits in disgust.