Armed men remove building materials in front of owners during night of looting homes
A Port Elizabeth man told how a group of six men barged into his house in Motherwell and pointed a gun at him and his wife before stripping building materials from his home.
Motherwell NU29 resident Siyabulela Damsi’s house was one of about 50 semi-detached double-storey units ransacked and stripped of roof trusses, tiles, ceiling boards, toilets, door frames and bricks on Monday night.
Most of the houses that were vandalised were unoccupied as they were incomplete.
The project has been idle for two years as the budget is depleted and there were concerns that the homes were structurally unsound.
The looted houses form part of the 162 semi-detached double-storey units deemed unsafe by the municipality.
Residents said some of the units had been stripped slowly over the past two years, but things came to a head of Monday when people – believed to be residents in the area and building contractors – went on the rampage.
Two men were arrested early yesterday after they were caught red-handed, allegedly trying to load roof trusses on a bakkie said to belong to a contractor building houses nearby.
The community believes the material is sold to other residents in the area who are using it to extend their houses.
During a visit to the area yesterday, The Herald saw roof trusses and other building materials lying on the ground.
Damsi, 26, said he was with his wife on Monday, shortly after 7pm, when six men kicked their front door open.
“They pointed a gun at us and there was nothing I could do as I feared for my wife’s safety.
“They first stripped the ceiling before proceeding to the bathroom and also taking off the electricity box.
“I kept praying for my wife’s safety, especially when the lights went off. The whole ordeal lasted for less than two hours,” Damsi said.
Residents blamed the municipality for the looting, which they linked to delays in handing over the houses to beneficiaries.
The metro’s political head of human settlements, Nqaba Bhanga, who visited the area yesterday, said whathad happened was a criminal act of theft and damage to state property.
“This is an organised crime, where people are removing government property for their own reasons.
“With the help of the community members [some of] the culprits were arrested.
“We are working hard to provide dignity to the people and criminals are taking that away.
“Our duty is to defend the poor and state property.
“In the meantime, I will ask officials to bring in security to this area,” Bhanga said.
He said an investigation into how the shoddily-built houses were approved by the National Home Builders Registration Council was still under way.
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge confirmed that two 28-year-old men were arrested for theft.