esidents of Berea and Hillbrow in Johannesburg are up in arms over living conditions in badly maintained flat buildings.

esidents of Berea and Hillbrow in Johannesburg are up in arms over living conditions in badly maintained flat buildings.

They claim fake agents have hijacked their buildings and are using a bullyboy security company to extort money from them.

The main charge is that agents take their lights and water money and then services are disconnected.

They say living conditions were deteriorating and they live in fear of intimidation.

Last week residents marched to the ANC headquarters and asked the ruling party to intervene.

Some Johannesburg inner city residents showed Sowetan Online their flats. At the five flats we went to, residents said fake agents hired Bad Boyz Security to intimidate them, beat them up and vandalise their property.

Vera Mabowa of Arvin Court in Berea said people were "sick and tired and do not care about the victimisation that will follow after speaking to the media".

"They have harmed me enough and I am no longer scared of them," Mabowa said.

Ntombi Lerefolo of Yellow Wood Park in Berea said: "We don't mind fixing the flat. I have lived here for more than 10 years and I don't plan to leave.

"I own this apartment. It is our home and we want to be proud of our home, but what is happening now scares me."

Zoliswe Aqupe, also from Yellow Wood Park, said: "I will not pay them a cent. I own my flat and will only pay my water and electricity account to the municipality. The fake agents have been here and will continue coming, but I will not pay them."

A Mozambican man had been beaten two days earlier and feared victimisation if he identified himself.

He said Bad Boyz Security had threatened him because he refused to give his water and electricity money to an agent he did not know.

"City Power had cut the electricity because the company was owed too much money and the connections were illegal," he said.

"The guys came and reconnected the power and wanted me to pay them directly. When I refused they hit me.

"I was scared because they said since I am a foreigner they would deal with me and no one would care.

"I ran and luckily a police van came past. When I showed the officer my paid account and told him the guys wanted me to pay them, the officer told them to stop harassing me. But they said I will eventually pay or else."

he elevators in all five flats were broken. Most of the plumbing needed repairs and water leaked into the passages and from roofs. The communal toilet did not flush. Electricity boxes were broken but the lights were on.

Bad Boyz kept a watchful eye on everything and our photographer had to be careful taking pictures.

Most people agreed with the residents who spoke to Sowetan but were too scared to go on record. Bad Boyz posters littered building entrances and occasionally their security van drove past.

Residents said they had tried to lay charges but hit a dead end.

"The police don't help. I think they are taking bribes because dockets disappear," complained Sylvester Maepa.

Trevor Bailey, Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal chairman, and Brian Miller, Johannesburg Property Owners and Managers Association chairman, both agreed that building hijackings was a serious problem. They blamed government policy.

"It should be looked at on a policy level," Bailey said. "The policies are not apparent to me and I think the government does not have a clear policy on how to deal with bad buildings.

"There is also the problem of absentee landlords and hijackers are stepping into the vacuum. But they have no legitimate claim to the building or a right to collect money from tenants."

bout allegations against Bad Boyz, Bailey said: "The tribunal has had allegations against Bad Boyz in cases that it dealt with."

Miller said the buildings posed health and fire risks.

He blasted the Law Clinic.

"The clinic says it represents the poor but it is not doing so. It represents criminals who have hijacked buildings and are collecting money illegally."

But Miller defended Bad Boyz.

"I personally know Bad Boyz. They work under difficult circumstances. I have not seen them assault anyone so I cannot comment on that matter."

Bad Boyz management said all they were interested in was doing the job they are paid for.

"Tough security, that's why people employ us," said company owner Deon de Klerk. "You can expect a clash or two when you manage a building with thousands of people daily. People might be pretending to be us." - Sowetan Online