City of Joburg conducts raid on hijacked buildings in inner city

A total of 23 undocumented foreign nationals were arrested during the operation and detained at the Hillbrow police station.

The City of Johannesburg has conducted a crime prevention operation in two well-known hijacked buildings in the inner city – Vannin Court and Florence House, mayor Herman Mashaba said on Saturday.

The operation on Friday night was led by the city’s group forensic and investigation service unit in conjunction with the South African Police Service (SAPS), home affairs department, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), Emergency Management Services (EMS), and the city’s health and social development departments, Mashaba said.

“Hijacked buildings are a major problem in our inner city, with our people living in deplorable conditions and being abused by slumlords who extort money from them. At Vannin Court, a City of Joburg-owned building, it was found that the occupiers are renting beds in the units from ‘owners’ for amounts ranging from R250 to R1200 per person,” he said.

A total of 23 undocumented foreign nationals were arrested during the operation and detained at the Hillbrow police station. Immigration officers from the home affairs department would now process those who were arrested to ascertain relevant information.

Several shops near Vannin Court were inspected and it was discovered that these shops were selling expired goods. The goods were confiscated by the JMPD and the shop owners were issued with fines.

“Crime has spiralled out of control in the area, with muggings and violent crime becoming commonplace. What makes matters worse is the fact that criminals run into these buildings and hide when being pursued by the police,” Mashaba said.

The operation focused on collecting data on the occupants living in the buildings, including sex, age, and employment status. Before the city could obtain an eviction order, it was vital that the occupants living in the building be profiled and to ensure the city could find alternative accommodation for them.

A consolidated report was currently being compiled by the relevant departments and would include all relevant information on the occupants of the buildings.

“Once we are able to find alternative accommodation for the occupants we will be able to close off the buildings and ensure that they are redeveloped into low-cost affordable housing for our people. I would like to thank all the role players involved in last night’s [Friday] successful operation, especially the SAPS and home affairs for their continued support,” he said.

“If we are going to turn around the decay of our inner city, it is vital that the rule of law is respected. I see the revitalisation of the inner city as key to ensuring economic growth and job creation in Joburg. I want to see rundown buildings turned into quality low cost housing for our residents and affordable rental spaces for small businesses.

“There has been a historic failure in our city to deal with hijacked buildings. We are committed to ensuring that we stop the rot in our inner city and make it a prosperous and inclusive place for our people to live, work, and play,” Mashaba said.