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Cape Town landlord cries foul as building hijackers try to pounce

Albatross flats in Thornton, Cape Town, where Communicare says attempts have been made to seize apartments illegally.
Albatross flats in Thornton, Cape Town, where Communicare says attempts have been made to seize apartments illegally.
Image: Communicare

A Cape Town landlord with almost 3,400 homes on its books says it is being targeted by would-be building hijackers.

Communicare, which offers many of its properties as “social rentals”, said on Wednesday that it was extremely concerned and had reported “escalating threats” to the police.

“A group of people have been cutting locks and breaking into Communicare premises in an attempt to hijack buildings,” said CEO Anthea Houston. 

“Dennehof and Albatross apartments in Thornton, as well as two freestanding houses in Ruyterwacht, have been affected in the past three weeks.

“Vacant units being repaired or waiting for new tenants to move in are being targeted by the group. Some of those organising these invasions include a few tenants and have already been arrested and appeared in court on charges of obstructing justice, as well as contempt of court.”

Communicare CEO Anthea Houston.
Communicare CEO Anthea Houston.
Image: Communicare

Houston said the Cape Town high court interdicted the group in March from unlawfully occupying units or inciting others to do so.

This followed an incident in February in which they held an unarmed guard at gunpoint to obtain keys for vacant units.

“On Tuesday night, the group once again resorted to violence and beat a security guard into submission to obtain keys to a house,” she said.

“Apart from using excessive force, these individuals prey on the severe need for housing in the city and fraudulently claim to own the properties. They claim to be the body corporate for the complexes concerned, then illegally collect ‘rent’ from some of those they put into the units. Others taking illegal occupation are their relatives and friends."

She said the group has been intimidating and harassing Communicare’s legitimate tenants, many of whom are single mothers or elderly people.

Criminal cases had been opened at Pinelands and Elsies River police stations, added Houston.

“We have seen how such building hijackings quickly result in slums in Johannesburg and cannot tolerate the hijacking of our property and threats to the safety of our legitimate tenants,” she said.

“I am sympathetic to the severe housing backlog in our city, but breaking the law is not the way to express frustration.”