75-year old Steven Ngoepe was evicted from his own house and sent to prison nine years ago for “trespassing” in his own home. According to a report from The Citizen, his “nightmare” began early one morning when a mysterious woman showed up at the house he had resided in for more than 30 years, claiming that she was the owner of the house.
Ngoepe explained that the woman told him that she had bought the house from Absa and Standard Bank, which he found confusing as one can’t buy a house from two banks. The young woman returned to the house a number of times insisting that Ngoepe evacuate the property.
On February 28, 2008, police officers showed up to arrest him and his wife. Ngoepe’s son managed to have his mother released; however, the police would not release Ngoepe. He spent six months in Johannesburg’s Medium B prison in Naturena, awaiting his bail hearing, after he was charged for trespassing, according to the report.
“I nearly lost my mind in there, it is no place for a man,” he said. He was finally released on bail on July 29, 2008. Ngoepe said he was still waiting for his case to be presented to the court, all he was told was that the matter would be investigated.
The spokesperson of the communist party, Alex Mashilo, confirmed that several properties were being sold across the country without the knowledge of the owners, who believe they have either settled their home loan, or have not fallen behind with payments. In a few cases, such as Ngoepe’s, the houses are sold on auctions or illegally for amounts far below their market value - for as low as R10 in some cases. This results in people who have spent a great portion of their lives paying for those properties finding themselves homeless.
King Sibiya, the national chairperson of the Lungelo Lethu Human Rights Foundation (LLHRF), was shocked by these findings. “Initially when I heard this story, I could not believe that a house could be sold for as little as R10,” he said.
“We began working with more people and when they saw this campaign, it began to change into a movement, and this is when we realised that there are hundreds of people who have the same problem,” he continued.
Ngoepe is said to be one of 225 applicants from all spheres of society who have embarked on a class action lawsuit. The R60 billion case - claiming damages from the large banks for
“home repossession abuse” - led by the LLHRF was launched at the Constitutional Court.
A memorandum delivered to the leading banks and government points out that most of the repossessions were as a result of court actions by leading banks using reworked documents after claiming that the originals had been destroyed. With no trace of these original documents, several people have been unable to protect their constitutional rights.
The report states that Nedbank, Absa (Barclays), FirstRand Bank and Standard Bank have been listed as defendants, together with the National Credit Regulator, the minister of justice and correctional services, the SA Human Rights Commission and the High Court Rules Board.
“The government and parliament should change the legislation to stop homes being sold at auctions below their market value and in the meantime, evictions should be frozen until the introduction of this new legislation,” Sibiya said. A court date from the Constitutional Court had not yet been released.
“There are so many people who have died and not seen justice, and we want to prevent this from happening. We demand that directors of banks must be arrested on criminal charges,” Sibiya said.
Absa informed The Citizen it would it would do everything possible to help its distressed clients in repossessing their homes. “We have and will continue to advise our customers to contact us should they experience difficulty in repaying their debts, so that we can assist them,” Absa said.
In regard to Ngoepe’s case, Absa believes the application is flawed in certain respects and they have instructed their attorneys to oppose the relief sought. This story draws us back to the importance of ensuring all legal matters concerning your home are up to date including legally mandatory building insurance – should your home still be under a home loan, and optional but still vitally important Household Insurance, which may protect the contents of your home against incidences such as theft and natural disasters.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice.