There’s a slum on my fancy stoep
Property in affluent suburb is crammed with low-rent tenants
● A multimillion-rand property in Johannesburg’s smart northern suburb of Hurlingham has been turned into a slum dwelling with dozens of residents.
The state of the dilapidated property — which offers cheap accommodation in the main house and in backyard shacks — has its affluent neighbours up in arms.
A 2016 commercial property report compiled by Lightstone Explore showed the Kinross Avenue house was bought for about R10.8m in cash six years ago by an Angolan business consultancy with a local footprint, Newcogest.
Companies and Intellectual Property Commission records list the company directors as Joaquim Neto Pereira dos Santos and Osvaldo Sebastiao Caetano Neto, whom the Sunday Times was unable to contact.
The property has deteriorated over the years, and a City of Johannesburg source said arrears for rates and service charges are now well over R200,000, with payments received only occasionally.
This is also mentioned in correspondence from lawyer Richard McCafferty, who represents two neighbours who are preparing a court application which would, among other things, compel the municipality to evict the “unlawful” occupiers.
None of the neighbours who spoke to the Sunday Times wanted to be named, but one said the property was always busy. “There are people going in and out and you never know what exactly is happening. You can’t tell who actually lives there.”
Another said power and water supplies to the property were sometimes cut off, so tenants would ask neighbours for water.
The neighbours complained that the house was zoned as a residential structure and not for rooming, lodging and accommodation.
The Sunday Times has seen correspondence from the city confirming that a 2019 inspection found that “an unauthorised use pertaining to commune was taking place. An unauthorised use notice was issued and
reinspection will be conducted at the expiry date of notice.”
Lucky Sindane, spokesperson for the city’s forensic and investigation services unit, which probes cases of abandoned or hijacked homes and buildings, said no further action had been taken because records did not flag the property as hijacked.
Speaking to the Sunday Times this week, some tenants of the rundown home said they paid monthly rent to a man they know only
They said rooms range between R950 and R1,650, depending on their size.
What was once the lounge has been partitioned with wooden boards into two rooms, each housing an entire family.
A staircase leads to the kitchen, which can no longer be used. The cupboards have no doors and a countertop is badly charred.
Along the passage are several more rooms — some of them further subdivided — with ceilings that are caving in. Some of the doors in the house are kept closed with rope. One of the toilets has been taped shut and all the tenants share three others.
Only some of the taps inside the house are working. The tenants cook in their rooms, which measure a few square metres each.
Behind the main house, the large swimming pool has been turned into a garbage dump.
Tenants reacted to the Sunday Times visit
with fear or hostility. They said the makeshift partitions made it difficult to know how many rooms there are, and tenant numbers fluctuated because of continual comings and goings.
Residents include food delivery riders, whose motorbikes are parked in the yard, courier service workers, cab drivers, fastfood workers and a caregiver.
Some acknowledged the house was in a mess, but they said it was convenient for work and the rent was all they could afford.
“When Joaquim arrives to collect his rent money, there’s no room to complain about this or that. And even if you did, nothing changes here,” said one tenant.
Newcogest’s property manager, Camila Guerreiro Braga, refused to answer questions about the status of the property, other than to say the questions contained errors.
Asked to elaborate on what the inaccuracies were, she failed to respond.