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Dispute Over Building Hijack

 Homeless Talk (South Africa) 11 April 2019

A dispute is still burning hot over who owns the Remington building in Jeppe and Nugget streets downtown Johannesburg, South Africa. There are allegations that the former committee leaders are hijacking the building and collection rent money from the tenants. ( Words) - By

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Bongani Nkwanyana, speaking on behalf of the Remington Tenants Committee (RTC) (Commonly known as Remington Concerned Residents) in their presence, says that there are members of the former committee who claim to own the building and collect money for rent from the tenants. He explains: "The problem started long time ago after this building was abandoned by its owner. Then it had to be closed but as there were already people living in it the government decided to let them stay.  The tenants were asked to have a committee that will represent them and that was done in 1992.

"That committee did not function, they did not call any meeting and they ended up as non-existing. Instead, the chairman, by the name Themba Khumalo, posed to be the owner of the building. He started collecting rent money from the tenants but did not pay for the municipal services."

According to Nkwanyana, due to the non- function of that committee, the tenants elected an interim committee, the Remington Tenants Committee (RTC).  "The RTC executive members, approached Councilor Dipale concerning the money that is being collected by the ex-committee chairman and his partners but she did not assist us", he says.  He adds that the tenants lost confidence in Dipale and decided to take the matter to the PR Councillor Dan Mohlatlole.  Nkwanyana continues, "The PR Councilor asked what   the   problem was and was told that the RTC wanted to see if the money we paid as rent was used correctly. Then he went to the Mayor's office accompanied by RTC members to obtain a statement.  In the statement the building was shown as owing about R1, 2 million for electricity and R29 000 for water.

"When PR Councilor Mohlatlole brought back the statements, the committee asked him to set up a meeting and address the matter. He agreed to hold the meeting and that was in October 2010. He invited the police to be present as he feared the alleged threats from the ex-committee members against the RTC members. This meeting was held in Johannesburg Central Police Station in the presence of Commissioner Oliphant.  Lieutenant Colonel Mdudi was notified and he responded that he would be present with his team.  But they did not arrive at the right time. This is said to have made it difficult for   PR Councilor Mohlatlole to start the meeting.

"When Colonel Mdudi arrived he asked Councillor Mohlatlole, "Where is the ward councillor?"  And he replied, "I am here".  But Lt. Col Mdudi said that he wanted to see the ward councillor and if is not present the meeting could not proceed".

According to Nkwanyana, more than 500 residents attended that meeting and were willing to hear the report from the PR Councilor, who then asked Lt. Col Mdudi to give him five minutes to tell them (residents) that the meeting was postponed but he refused.

Regarding the above statement, Lt. Colonel Mdudi explains; "My role in that meeting was to provide peace and order.  When Councillor Mohlatlole approached me concerning the meeting I asked him to phone and invite Ward Councilor Dipale. I wanted the ward councillor to be present as the building was in his ward. 

"As I said my role was to see that there is security and peace among both parties involved in dispute for that building".   Col Mdudi states that it is not his duty to decide who pays or not pay in the building, or who owns the building. "There is a separate department in police that is responsible for such matters" he explains. He stressed that he did not take any side and see no problem in what he did. "My part to invite the ward councilor does not mean I was taking anybody's side", he states.

He (Mdudi) mentions that last year there was a meeting where Councilor Dipale attended but it had nothing to do with him. "I never had any meeting with Dipale or any discussion concerning that building".

Lt.Col Mdudi further states that he asked the Commissioner that he doesn't want to entertain the case, "I don't want to be involved in such disputes as my only part is to prevent crime. With the presence of police in matters like this most people take the advantage and at the end when things go wrong we become part of the problem". He concludes since that last meeting he did not get any feedback about what is happening concerning that (Remington) building.

According to Nkwanyana, it was decided that another meeting will be held in November 2010. He explains, "In that meeting, the Councillors Mohlatlole and Dipale, Lt.Colonel Mdudi and his team, Remington Tenants Committee (RTC), Brigadier Mashao and the community leaders were asked to be present.  This meeting was organized by PR Councilor Mohlatlole and on the side of the police it was organized by Lt. Colonel Mdudi who agreed that it be held at the police offices.  "Diphale did not attend that meeting and the ex-committee members were seen at Brigadier Mashao's office but not attending the meeting. Mashao denied any knowledge that the meeting was proceeding, saying that he was expecting Lt. Col Mdudi to notify him".  That meeting took only 20 minutes.

It is alleged   that the tenants of Remington told Lt. Colonel Mdudi that they had lost confidence in him.  Then Brigadier Mashao ordered Colonel Mdudi to call Clr Diphale for questioning concerning the reason why she does not solve the problem, says Nkwanyana.  He says that since that time no meetings were held.

He proceeds, "When the RTC went again to the police we were referred to the Provincial Commissioner's office in Parktown (office of the Hawks) but the very same ex-committee members were also referred to the same office by Brigadier Mashao.

"In that office both parties (Remington Tenants Committee and the former-committee members) were asked to present proof of ownership and documents payment services.  The members of the ex-committee were still threatening to throw out the tenant who does not want to pay money to them. Then the Ten-Triple-One (10 111) was called and they ordered that no one is allowed to ask for payment for that building", says Nkwanyana.

  He (Nkwanyana) states that the Hawks in Parktown didn't bring the   results of the investigation.  Then Mr. Zungu of the Hawks told us (RTC) that he possesses the documents from the ex-committee of Remington proving them as the owners of the building.  Nkwanyana says that Zungu has stated that he has the information that these ex-committee members have taken a lot of money from the tenants and that he would come with evidence to prosecute them. But, according to Nkwanyana, afterwards he (Zungu) told the RTC that the ex-committee is the owners of the building and so the tenants have to pay to them.  This was rejected as out of order by the police.

In their conclusion with this interview, the Remington Tenants Committee (RTC) says that they have totally lost confidence with all the officials they consulted to solve the problem of hijacking that building.

Themba Khumalo denied the allegations that he and his committee have collected money from tenants and misused it. "I don't know about these allegations, it is not true. All the money we collect from tenants is used to pay water and electricity.  If we used this money for ourselves as the allegations point out then why is the water and electricity not cut off? If we didn't pay water and electricity it would have been cut off, but it didn't happen, water and electricity is there."

Khumalo says both the landlord and the tenants are billed. He proceeds, "The tenants pay R70 at the bank instead of paying the right amount which is R700".

He concluded that this is an open case and it has gone to the police. "We don't know why they involved the police".

No comment received from Clr. Dipale. She responded in an interview over the phone, "I can't comment about that, I don't want to talk about that over the phone". 

When asked about the Remington Tenants Committee's allegation that she didn't want to help them solve the problem of that building, she responded, "Let them say what ever they want to say".

  

 

 

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