52 year old Portia Mahlatshana from Nyanga is fighting to get her home back.
Mahlatshana is from the Eastern Cape but came to Cape Town to work over 25 years ago. Her parents Robert and Florence Mahlatshana died in 1998 and she, along with her brother, inherited their two houses in the Eastern Cape (one in Mdantsane, King William's Town and the other in a nearby rural area). She had been renting out the property.
Two years ago she received a call from a woman who lived in Mdantsane to tell them that she thought the title deeds of her house had been changed to someone else's name. She checked out the woman's claim and indeed her cousin had changed the title deeds to his name without permission or any other relatives being present.
When her legal aid lawyer Mrs Rene Carsprin contacted the council office who hold the housing records, they said the file which proved ownership of the house was missing, so there was no evidence that Mahlatshana and her brother were the rightful inheritors of the house. Her lawyer Carsprin suspects that someone in the office where the records are held was paid to remove the file and to change the name on the title deeds of the property.
Prior to this, the rural house was burnt down. Mahlatshana now suspects this was also due to her cousin wishing to erase any evidence of their ownership of the property in Mdantsane.
Her brother managed to get the title deeds from the cousin but he won't come to meet housing officials as he says that his cousins want to kill him. They say, they just want the title to be corrected, so that they can retire to a house that is rightfully theirs.
Mahlatshana's lawyers have encouraged her to write to the relevant councillor in the Eastern Cape asking him to confirm that she is the rightful owner. Her ward councillor Sizinzo Philgate Madikane has told her he can only assist her if she or a relative go and visit him in person. However, finding the time and the money to go to the Eastern Cape is a real challenge.
GroundUp contacted the spokesperson for Buffalo City Municipality Samkelo Gqeba with the following questions and gave him five days to respond:
- Do housing records at your municipality regularly go missing?
- How could someone have changed the title deeds of a property to their name without other family members of the deceased being present?
- Should her Ward Councillor Sizinzo Philgate Madikane be able to assist her without her going to visit him in person?
- How will the municipality assist Portia Mahlatshana to resolve her situation?
- What would you advise Portia Mahlatshana to do?
On the fifth day, Gqeba replied, "According to our records the property is not under the name of Portia Mahlatshana which means she is not a legal owner of the house. I would like to advise Ms Portia Mahlatshana to visit her local ward councillor with relevant documentation so that her matter can be further investigated."
Mahlatshana said, "I am tired of this. It has been going on for two years now and I just want a house I can retire to. I am trying to build a new rural house in the meantime but so far I have paid three labourers to build it and they have all stopped part way through the job. I now must save more money and find a labourer I can trust, as well as hope that the situation with the title deeds in Mdantsane can eventually be resolved."