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IFP says arrest of councillor in Joburg hijacked property case is ‘without merit’

IFP says arrest of councillor in Joburg hijacked property case is ‘without merit’

A City of Johannesburg councillor was arrested on Wednesday as municipal officials inspected a city-owned site earmarked to house victims of the Albert Street fire. The councillor is from the Inkatha Freedom Party, which said he had been wrongfully arrested.

Twenty people were arrested at a Denver property owned by the City of Johannesburg on Wednesday, 6 September when authorities raided the site bought by the municipality in 2019 for R40-million. The intention had been to use it as an impoundment lot for the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).

The city had considered the Denver property as a possible location to house victims of the 80 Albert Street fire on 31 August which claimed 77 lives in the hijacked, run-down Marshalltown building.

However, during an inspection, authorities found people at the site building illegal structures. The 20 people arrested included a city councillor. A police colonel was also implicated, but reportedly was not arrested because the officer was in Cape Town.

The city has embarked on a crackdown on all suspected hijacked buildings around Johannesburg following the Albert Street fire. After the arrests, Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda said the city would take a firm stance against illegally occupied properties.

“Our approach to illegality is now driven with greater urgency and firmness. It’s our intention to ensure that we prevent any further loss of life and disasters in the city as a result of illegally occupied and hijacked buildings,” said Gwamanda.

“We are adopting a zero-tolerance approach and will be extending our operations to target those buildings belonging to the city that are currently in the hands of criminal syndicates.”

IFP dismisses claims

The arrested councillor has been identified as the Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP’s) Nkosikhona Khanyile. In a statement on Thursday, 7 September, the IFP said Khanyile’s arrest was “unwarranted and without merit”. 

“The IFP maintains that we do not condone acts of illegal occupation of land or property in the city, and we do not support the criminal syndicates that profit from these acts. The party would not hesitate to take decisive action against persons within our ranks suspected of wrongdoing. However, in this instance, we wish to clarify that the arrest of Cllr. Khanyile was unwarranted and without merit.

“He has nothing to do with illegal occupations or the hijacking of city properties, as was alleged during his wrongful arrest. The Cllr has since been released, as he was detained without any charge, which further proves that the arrest was unwarranted and based on fictional charges,” the IFP said.

Daily Maverick asked IFP Johannesburg caucus leader Mlungisi Mabaso what steps the party would take on the arrest.

“We are still engaging with our provincial leaders on further steps, on whether there will be a process to press charges against JMPD or not,” Mabaso said.

According to the IFP, Khanyile had informed the city about the illegal land occupation and “advised the affected community about the proper channels to follow to obtain a permit from the city to occupy any of its properties”.

Daily Maverick’s attempts on Thursday to reach SAPS or JMPD spokespersons for comment on the IFP’s claims were unsuccessful. DM

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