Johannesburg - The Gauteng housing department and the Banking Association of SA have teamed up to investigate the illegal sale of land in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg.
The two agreed to join forces after it was discovered that 10 mortgage loan homes affected by demolitions in Lenasia were registered on the books of association members, they said in a statement on Thursday.
"The affected loans are currently being investigated by the banks. Most of the loans date back to the 1990s and... appear to be normal commercial transactions," the association's human settlement general manager Pierre Venter said.
"We have therefore raised the matter with the department in order to find an amicable solution."
The two agreed to allow the investigations into the affected loans to be conducted within the department's anti-fraud and corruption unit.
"The department is expect[ed] to exclude the properties from the list of houses earmarked for demolitions," provincial housing department head Mongezi Mnyani said.
"In cases where fraud is suspected, the province in collaboration with the Hawks will undertake further investigations."
The Gauteng housing department started demolishing houses built on illegally sold land in Lenasia on November 8 and 9.
The department said the land the houses were built on was meant for government housing.
About 50 houses were initially destroyed and there were plans to knock down another 113.
The plots on which the houses were built were apparently fraudulently sold for amounts ranging from R2 500 to R95 000. The buyers were given forged deeds of sale bearing the department's logo.
Earlier on Thursday, Cabinet mandated Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale to urgently work with the Gauteng government to find a solution to the situation in Lenasia.
"Cabinet [at its regular fortnightly meeting on Wednesday] said that the minister must work with the government of Gauteng," Women, Children, and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana said.
"Cabinet... said the minister, with the government of Gauteng, must work on that issue and look at alternatives, but ensure that all that has to be done must be done within the law," she said."
The SA Human Right Commission (SAHRC) welcomed Cabinet's mandate.
"The SAHRC commends Cabinet for instructing Minister Sexwale to urgently engage the Gauteng provincial government in this matter, to help find a solution to the eviction crisis," it said.
"We have always emphasised that the extreme action adopted by the Gauteng government disregards... constitutional values and therefore makes a mockery of human rights."
The SAHRC took the issue to court and, on November 12, won an urgent application forcing the department to stop the demolitions for 24-hours.
That order was extended for a day.
On November 14, lawyers for the local government and housing department told the court no houses would be demolished pending court proceedings on Friday.