In a world where people lack basic support systems for their everyday requirements, sufficient assistance is needed to help them defend themselves, especially when it comes to keeping a roof over their head.
But that kind of help is not always available, especially when your house is unknowingly sold multiple times over a decade, at one point to the value of a mere R10.
GroundUp met with several people to find out how this had occurred, and discovered that most of them had reliably kept up with their loan repayments.
Here’s one family’s story:
Ernest Mashaba and his family have been evicted four times from their home in Likole Extension 1 in Katlehong, near Johannesburg. Now they face eviction for the fifth time.
Each time the sheriff and “red ants” arrive to remove their belongings from their home, Mashaba and his family re-occupy the house they say they paid for in blood, sweat and tears.
“The house is mine,” says Mashaba. “I took out a loan with the SA Perm (later acquired by Nedbank) in 1993 and never missed a payment. I have paid for this house in full. So why am I being evicted?”
It’s a question GroundUp put to Nedbank, which replied as follows: “It is worth noting that there is a significant amount of time that has lapsed in these matters. As a result, the process of investigating such matters tends to be complicated and therefore very lengthy.
“We assure you that we take the issues that you have raised very seriously and will do whatever we can to resolve these issues for our clients. It is not in our nor the client’s interest to repossess properties. We also encourage and invite clients to contact us as soon as they experience financial hard times, so we can try to find the best solution for them.”
But no one can answer just how it is that Mashaba and others like him ended up in this position.
After spending most of his life working “as a security guard at the nearby Knights Hospital”, Mashaba took a loan of the amount of R41 485 with SA Perm to buy his house in Katlehong:
By all accounts, he diligently paid his loan off by way of a monthly R585 debit order.
But in 2006, the sheriff arrived at the house and said it had been sold to a new owner. Some time before this, it seems Nedbank had taken a default judgment against him, though Mashaba never received a summons, nor was he ever shown the alleged judgment. And if he was in arrears, the bank never informed him of this nor of its intention to take legal action against him.
Selling the house off at an auction for R10, the deeds register shows “the house has been sold multiple times over the last 11 years” and all of it happened behind Mashaba’s back.
Mashaba and the owners of the rest of the thousands of homes that have been repossessed by the banks, without “ever having their claims tested by a judge”, were all victims of the banks who never issued a so-called “Section 129 notice informing [them] that [they] was in arrears”.
Banks also took judgement against clients without presenting the case before a judge:
They would type up what looks like a court judgment and have it stamped by the court register. With this “judgment” in hand, the banks could then apply for the house to be sold in execution through various sheriffs’ auctions around the country.
Since then, however, the National Credit Act has come into force, which now makes a notice period required by law.
And, to help those thousands of homeowners who share similar stories with Mashabe, the Lungelo Letho Human Rights Foundation (LLHRF) was set up to help people “facing unlawful or irregular evictions, to hear testimony from several township residents whose homes were sold behind their backs by the lending banks”.
I think it’s time the banks took some responsibility.
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