Ricochet News

'Green card' fraud runs deep as desperate residents conned in the townships

BY AFIKILE LUGUNYA - JUNE 28, 2017
'Green card' fraud runs deep as desperate residents conned in the townships

The appearance of three women in the Motherwell Magistrate's Court on the 15th of June for alleged fraud and corruption involving the selling of so-called 'green cards' highlighted how residents desperate to own a decent home are often swindled out of their monies by unscrupulous public officials.

According to residents, a 'green card' is the first step to owning an RDP house. Those with green cards can be identified by having a proper 'house number' on their shacks, which entitles the household to municipal services like refuse collection and a proper RDP house when the opportunity comes. A green card is free.

Speaking to RNEWS, one of the three women's victim's, Mandisa Koki*, said that she was approached by the trio who said they could speed up the process of her getting her own RDP home via the green card process - only if she pays up.

“I was called to a house by the three women [names ommitted], who were part of our Ward representative structure, and they told me that they are selling a green card for R4 000,” she described.

“When municipal officials came to check my living situation - and after I refused to pay the R4 000, one of the women, who was present, told the officials that they must not worry about my shack because my case was being handled through the Ward structure.

“So, the municipality never addressed my plight believing that it was already being handled. When I went to the ladies' Ward office, they told me stories.”

Koki said that she called for a community meeting to tell other residents about the three women's plot to con her R4 000 for a green card, which is free after all. 

Today, she is a frustrated woman.

“There are others, who payed this R4 000 - and they have the green cards, but I didn’t do it because I know that a green card is not for sale, and I am still without one," she told RNEWS.

“I want my Councillor to get us formal houses, it’s what we voted for him to do.”

Unfortunately, for those like Koki, the case against the trio was thrown out of the court due to insufficient evidence against them.

Common practice of 'green cards' being traded and sold in the townships

RNEWS spoke to Pumza Ndanda, a member of a Ward representative structure about the green cards issue.

“Because the councillor cannot be in his office and be in the community at the same time, so we are appointed to assist here and there.

“Structures take note of what is needed by the community and they act on behalf of the community by reporting to the councillor what the community needs at a certain time,” she said.

"In this case, the previously appointed community structure failed the community. So, us as the new structures have been receiving complaints about the old structures. We stood up with anger and started doing some investigation in the area where we found out that the old or the previous structures have been doing a lot of illegal dealings.”

Ndanda said that through their research, they found out that green cards were indeed being sold and traded - and the structures were also charging residents if they wanted to extend their shacks.

“We also found affidavits of this fraud," she added.

The affidavits seen by RNEWS showed that residents, who own multiple homes and shacks, were using that to make money from desperate home-seekers.

“Some people sold one shack with R8 000, the other with R6 000, you hear that is R12 000.

“We find is pretty unfair for a one person to have more than one house, because to the first buyer she said she was selling her shack, because of desperation, the poor guy gave up his last cash to buy the shack from her,” Ndanda described.

“After we’ve done our research, we found out that there were many victims of these frauds and we also found affidavits to back up their statements. But in the affidavits the amounts of the shacks are not written, we just hear the amounts from the victims."

In one affidavit seen by RNEWS had the amount written down as R17 000.

“This shack was sold with R17 000, and it is sad when you see it from the inside, those people practically live outside," Ndanda said.

"What is strange with this affidavit is that it was done at the Kamvelihle police station. They payed R7 000 so now they are left with the balance of R10 000 and there is an affidavit that states that.

“When they went back to the owner after we advised them against paying such a huge amount, he told them that, ‘this was his house not the structures house'. It really confuses me because the land still belongs to the municipality not him," she said.

“What we refuse is for people to take advantage of others - charging higher prices for material they used to build their shacks and charging for the land.

“The land belongs to the municipality, having a shack does not automatically entitles you to the land built to it.”

The buyer of that particular shack, Phakama Hlophe told RNEWS, “For now, we payed R7 000, then he told us that he is changing his mind, he doesn’t want to sell the shack anymore and he needs his place back.”

According to Hlophe, the owner said he would pay them back their R7 000 because he needed his place back as soon as possible.

“He said that he would pay us back our money last month, but we are still waiting- he lives in NU7, so he comes here time to time,” she said.

In the affidavit, the owner of the shack, stated the amount the shack is worth and he said that a green card will be handed over to the new owners after the full amount has been payed.

According to Ndanda, after he heard that the new structures were investigating about the selling of the shack, that is when he changed his mind.

Speaking for the community Alime Ntseone said, “His actions show that he would have taken the money and refuse to hand over the green card.”

Outside the home, there were many shack material which could have been used to fix the house and RNEWS asked why they were not used.

Hlophe said, “The house is not like this because we are lazy, we are just following strict instructions from the owner of the house."

Nomathamsanqa Mthatha is one of many victims of the green card fraud, who says she got lucky as she received her green card before she owned a shack.

“I payed R1 000 for my green card and yes, I got it and didn’t even get any difficulties, When I bought it I didn’t know that it wasn’t for sale,” Mthatha said.

According to Mthatha, she bought her green card a long time ago while she was still living in her parents' house with her siblings.

She said that she would show us her green card, but she washed along with her clothes so it was ruined.

Another victim, who didn’t want to be named, had her own story to tell too.

“I have been residing in this shack for as long as I can remember, but at that time I didn’t have a child. Now my child is within a right to have a child of her own, she is 24 years old. I don’t have a green card and there’s nothing in place that shows that something is indeed happening that will help us," she said.

“I last saw the councillor when he wanted my vote, we’ve been calling him, asking him to come to listen to our complaints but he doesn’t come. When he wanted my vote, he came to my houses and that was the last time he had stepped foot in my house.

“I also applied for a green card when we were promised that they were going to make them for us  - it’s been 10 years now, still waiting for a miracle!”

RNEWS Visited the Ward 57 Councillor, Mncedisi Mbuqu, who denied all the allegations the community accused him of.

“First of all, I haven’t received any formal complaints regarding the green cards. I’ve heard people just talking about it generally, but no one has come to me to express their complaints to me,” he said.

RNEWS asked the councillor what the councillor would do after receiving a formal complaint. 

“I haven’t received any formal complaint, but we are governed by the law so if I receive a complaint then the law will play its role,” he said.

He explained to RNEWS the procedure for one to get a green card.

“A green card is not for sale, for a person to get a green card they must own an informal settlement in due time they will be moved to a formal settlement, during that process the person will have received a green card.

“A green card is not for sale, people must just wait to the processes that will finally get them a valid green card,” he said.

Image: According to residents, a 'green card' is the first step to owning an RDP house. Those with green cards can be identified by having a proper 'house number' on their shacks, which entitles the household to municipal services like refuse collection and a proper RDP house when the opportunity comes. A green card is free.