Joburg councillor arrested in connection with ‘hijacked’ property wants ‘big apology’ from city
A Joburg councillor arrested along with 22 other people in connection with the hijacking of a R40m building that belongs to the city says he is owed a “big apology” after being released without any charge.
Nkosikhona Khanyile, an IFP ward 65 councillor, was arrested during a sting operation led by Johannesburg metro police (JMPD) on Wednesday in Denver.
This followed the department's investigation into the alleged hijacking of a property in Denver intended for use as a metro car pound.
The property was earmarked to serve as temporary accommodation for the victims of the deadly Usindiso building fire.
Khanyile, along with his co-accused, was expected to appear in the Johannesburg magistrate's court on a raft of charges, including malicious damage to council property, building hijacking and trespassing.
But only one person, Dylan Mangena, appeared on Friday, while the rest were released “as there was no evidence linking them”, according to NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwana.
“Mangena claims to be the owner of the building, while the building belongs to the city of Johannesburg,” she said. He faces a fraud charge.
Khanyile spoke to TimesLIVE outside the court about his “unlawful” arrest. He said he had raised the flag about the state of the building earlier this year to public safety MMC Mgcini Tshwaku.
“I called the MMC earlier this year, I think he was two months into the position, and we went there with him and told him that this was a city property under his department that people were vandalising on a daily basis.
“I also told him that people wanted to put shacks there and [said that] we can't afford to have shacks there because once people put shacks there, it's going to be a long process to remove them,” he said.
According to Khanyile, the MMC met with residents and pleaded with them to stop erecting illegal structures as the city had plans for the property.
Months later, Khanyile said business owners in the area reached out to him via the Cleveland police station commander to speak to him about erecting a boundary wall around the property as a way to protect their businesses.
The ward councillor advised them to speak to Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) to secure authorisation and left the matter there.
Explaining what happened on Wednesday, Khanyile said: “I was in a meeting [earlier that day] and had gone home ... when I got a call from one of the business owners telling me that there were JPC officers there with some officials and that they don't know what's happening.
When I get there, I engaged the regional manager and while we were talking, they said, 'also you councillor, you are a suspect, please stand there.' That was it, they didn't ask me anything or ask me to explain.Nkosikhona Khanyile on his arrest
“When I got there, I engaged the regional manager, and while we were talking, they said, 'also you councillor, you are a suspect, please stand there.' That was it, they didn't ask me anything or ask me to explain,” he said.
Khanyile denied there was a planned operation in the area, saying if there was he would've been alerted about it as it was happening in his area.
He spotted the MMC among the throng of officials that were part of the operation who told Khanyile he had been arrested after being implicated by the others who had been arrested.
The IFP leader said among those arrested were hawkers, labourers contracted to build the wall and a businessperson.
He said no statement was taken from him on arrival at the police station and no docket was opened.
“Nobody explained anything to me. I was just taken to the police station. They didn't even tell me they were releasing me,” he said. He confirmed that five women were released with him.
Khanyile said his arrest, which was widely publicised through statements released by the city and MMC's office, had badly affected him. He said he had at least expected both entities to retract the statements once his party clarified the matter.
Asked about the way forward, Khanyile said: “I'm going to wait for the party to give me direction, but as an individual, I feel that the city owes me an apology. Remember they are my employer, so I don't want to take them to court, but I feel they owe me a big apology,” he said.
The case against Mangena was postponed to September 15 for address verification and to attend to the legalities around the case.
IFP caucus leader in the city Mlungisi Mabaso said they would address the issue at the party's upcoming provincial conference.
He urged the city to be “careful” and not carry out operations of this nature in a “clumsy way”.
“They don't follow the book ... everything they do, they must do it legally and leave innocent people alone,” he said.
The city and MMC for public safety did not respond to questions sent to them.
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