×

We've got news for you.

Register on SowetanLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Human settlements officials involved in housing scams in Joburg — MMC

After one employee was arrested last year, Mlungisi Mabaso believes more could be in cahoots with scammers

Johannesburg MMC for human settlements Mlungisi Mabaso, left, mayor Mpho Phalatse and GFIS acting head Lizzie Ramogale at a media briefing on housing scams on Thursday.
Johannesburg MMC for human settlements Mlungisi Mabaso, left, mayor Mpho Phalatse and GFIS acting head Lizzie Ramogale at a media briefing on housing scams on Thursday.
Image: Alex Patrick

“Someone in the department knows what's happening,” Johannesburg MMC for human settlements Mlungisi Mabaso said on Thursday.

Mabaso, Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse and Group Forensic and Investigation Services (GFIS) acting head Lizzie Ramogale addressed the media on housing scams in the province.

Mabaso spoke specifically on Fleurhof, north of Orlando West, which had seen a series of land invasions, with scammers allegedly selling RDP houses and opportunities to jump the housing queue. 

SowetanLIVE reported scammers sell flats and RDP houses for as little as R15,000 to R25,000 and charge R2,500 to jump the housing beneficiaries queue. 

Mabaso opened a case of identity theft after scam artists started using his photos on fake social media accounts to lure potential victims.

Fleurhof

Fleurhof is a 440ha housing development in Johannesburg.

It has 10,411 dwellings including 3,236 RDP houses, 4,429 social or rental housing units and 2,122 bonded homes. - City of Joburg

On Thursday, Phalatse said the city and law enforcement agencies were tackling the issue.

She slammed the scammers who “target the vulnerable and already destitute citizens,” taking them for the little money they had, preying on their desperation for housing. 

“Those who qualify for RDP houses are already destitute and asking them to pay is immoral.

“We are inundated with walk-ins and calls [by people who have been scammed]. The fraudsters have even registered their cell numbers [to appear as though they are from human settlements].”

The mayor said the department would never ask a beneficiary to pay or offer to allow them to jump the queue.

“They are targeting Joburg-based residents ... extorting money, asking for money to be issued through store accounts, taking from R3,000 to R20,000 to 'move things along'.

“Once the money is handed over the perpetrators collapse all communications. It's becoming clear there are multiple suspects and that human settlement employees may be involved.”

Phalatse encouraged victims to open cases of fraud at their local police station so they could charge the perpetrators. She urged citizens to be vigilant and to scrutinise all information pertaining to housing, and said the communications on housing could only come from the department's website or official social media channels. 

She said many of the victims were too scared of the perpetrators to open cases, but doing so would help them bolster their cases.

The mayor said the housing backlog in the city affected 460,000 to 480,000 people.

“We rely on funding from national and provincial government to roll out housing projects. We want to see people build their own housing [on land provided by government].”

Ramogale said Fleurhof was a hotspot for scammers, and eight cases had been opened. She said on Wednesday 20 people had reported scams there. 

Mabaso said the department recognised the severity of the housing backlog. He acknowledged that people died waiting for houses.

He said the city would hold a housing indaba to determine alternatives for building homes because “brick and mortar housing takes too long”.

Mabaso said an official involved in the scams had been arrested last year and the department was still investigating to see if other employees were involved.

“With Fleurhof, there's something wrong there. Someone in the department knows what's happening.”

TimesLIVE


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

Commenting is subject to our house rules.