Four buildings in Hillbrow were raided in a joint operation, “Operation Bad Building”, by the South African Police Service and the Joburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) yesterday.
There were swoops on Vannin Court, Eastgate Building, Stensby Hof and Sandringham to identify criminal activities and determine if city bylaws were being breached. The so-called hijacked buildings are allegedly used as hideouts for criminals and accommodation for illegal immigrants.
Musa Shihambe, spokesperson for the Hillbrow police station, said 124 men were taken to the station for profiling and to check fingerprints.
Of the 124, 21 were arrested for illegal immigration after they failed to provide relevant documentation, and three for illegally being in possession of police ammunition and a home-made rifle. Another was arrested for selling alcohol without a license.
Of the suspects, 99 were released after they were able to provide necessary documentation.
Among the confiscated items were police-issue bullet-proof vests, pangas, bullets, drugs and tazers.
All four buildings were in an appalling state, with electric wires in the open, sewage running through the hallways and rubbish pilling up inside and around the buildings.
In Eastgate Building, police also found a small baby left alone in one of the rooms. Police left the boy in the care of a neighbour, who claimed the mother had only left the child to go and buy nappies for him.
Residents were not pleased how the raid was handled.
Silibaziso Ncube, who has been living in Vannin Court for two years, said the police had damaged her wardrobe and bed.
She said she regretted voting, because the government had been promising to change their living conditions and to stop criminal activities, which had them living in fear.
Residents pay monthly rent ranging from R500 to R1,200.
They claimed although they were unhappy with their living conditions, they had nowhere else to go as the area was close to their workplaces.
The majority of the immigrants weren’t employed.
Wayne Minnaar, spokesperson for the JMPD, said the raid was successful and that more of these raids would take place throughout Gauteng.
“All buildings will be shut down and renovated to be used for more positive purposes,” said Minnaar.
All residents would be relocated by the city’s housing department, he said.