Housing fraud is a growing trend in South Africa as many are victim to scams of Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses being sold illegally.
While there is an increase in land grabs with people desperate for shelter and land having high hopes of building their own houses (on land not due to them) as a result of the backlog of housing in our country, many are left as victims to housing scams taking place all over South Africa.
The RDP was launched to better the lives of previously disadvantaged citizens by allocating tax money for housing development projects. The initiative seeks to help South Africans who were displaced during apartheid and forced to live in the township on the outskirts of towns and cities. 3million houses have been built and delivered thus far benefiting about 20million people.
Nomzi Phiri* is just one of thousands of innocent people who have been taken advantage of through the RDP housing sale scams.
Phiri, a security guard who works in Barkley West, recently bought an RDP house. She said her daughter saw an advert for the house, priced at R145 000 on the internet. The seller was Kopano Khoza.
Phiri was given seven days to make full payment into the Khoza’s bank account.
“I was told some of it would be used to clear any outstanding municipal arrears on the house and for me to access the ownership documents,” Phiri says.
She transferred the money into the attorney’s trust account after viewing the property.
But things then took a bad turn.
“I went to show the kids the house one afternoon and I approached one of the neighbours at the gate. During our conversation, I mentioned that I had just bought the house and that I would be moving in soon. The neighbour was surprised, saying that there was another buyer who came the week before and said they were also moving in, ”Phiri explained.
It soon became clear that this was the beginning of a nightmare for Phiri and her family. The neighbour also said that the previous owner, Mary Letswalo, had died several years ago and the house was actually not for sale.
Phiri stated that Khoza had not told her that the house belonged to a deceased person.
“As soon as I heard that, I got worried and phoned him immediately to cancel the sale but he has since been avoiding me”.
Phiri said Khoza had told her that Letswalo was old and wanted to move from Barkley West and that she was currently living in Galeshewe, Kimberley. The unfortunate truth revealed that Letswalo had in fact died in 2012. Documents pertaining to the sale of the house however, show that the sale agreement was signed by a Mary Letswalo, who in the documents is identified as the seller.
Phiri has since lost the money she paid for the house, and did not end up receiving the house. Instead, she now has the administrative process of legal battles to deal with.
Jacob Lebitsa, a 67-year-old man from Kimberley had a similar experience.
Lebitsa bought a section of land with a shack on it in Tlhabanelo, Vergenoeg in 1997 from John Reit, which cost him R1500 and was concluded at Van der Wall and Partners for the exchange of ownership.
Although it turned out that the title deed exchange never took place as Reit had a lot of excuses, Lebitsa continued to build a house on the property with his own funds. As the land was still under his name, Reit decided to sell the same property to Kagisho Pieters for R40 556.92 in March 2013.
Pieters then asked Reit about the occupants of the property.
“I asked Mr Reit about the occupants of the property, and he assured my wife and I that he is the lawful owner of the property and that the people who were occupying the property at the time had been living there for years but had failed to pay their tax and rates over the years . He made an undertaking that upon us registering the property in our name, the occupants will have no option but to vacate the said property”.
The deed of sale was signed on the 12th of March 2013 and on the 4th of June 2013 the property was registered in Pieters name.
Pieters then sent a letter to Lebitsa to inform him that he was the new owner of the property.
“I sent a letter to Lebitsa to inform him that I am the new owner of the property and that I am giving them 60 days to vacate the property. I further informed him that a monthly rental fee of R1500 would be charged per month until they vacate the property”.
The Lebitsa family was evicted on Tuesday 25th June 2019 after he lost his case against Pieters.
This served as an eye opener to the family and the residents of Kimberley that one needs to have the necessary documents when going through the process of purchasing a house, or land. Since housing scams have been on such a rise in SA, government took to enforcing more protective measures for the buying and selling of RDP houses.
These strict conditions were introduced in 2015 by former Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu:
• The sale of an RDP house cannot happen if the seller is not in possession of the required documentation needed to prove that he/she is in fact the rightful owner of the house. In the event that you are offered an RDP house without the seller having the necessary documentation (title deed & permission), you should not accept the offer and instead report them to their local Housing Department as well as the Police.
• The sale of an RDP house can only happen after 8 years of the owner being in occupancy of the house. After the 8 years, the house must be presented to the State before being sold privately.
• The seller must have written consent from the Department of Housing authorizing him/her with permission to sell the house.
• Once a house is sold, a letter of authority from the deeds office must be attached to the sale agreement
• Remember, title deeds cannot be bought. If someone offers to buy your title deed from you, know that that is illegal and can land you in trouble with the law.
*Alias name due to confidentiality request from source