Downtown Johannesburg. Picture: ISTOCK
Downtown Johannesburg. Picture: ISTOCK

Twenty-eight people have been arrested for trespassing and contempt of court after a sting operation at five hijacked properties in the south of Johannesburg.

Mayor Herman Mashaba said the operation took place on Tuesday night. Minors found in the properties were handed to the department of social development for placement in a safer place.

"One undocumented foreign national was also arrested during the operation. Home Affairs is expected to process the suspect‚" Mashaba said.

"With respect to some of the properties‚ the owners had evicted unlawful occupiers and hijackers from their properties‚ however‚ these unlawful occupiers then forcibly moved back into the properties‚ trespassing and failing to adhere to an order of court in the process."

Mashaba said the suspects were expected to appear in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday. Four of the hijacked properties were returned to their owners. "I am informed that in the case of one of the properties‚ hijacked four years ago‚ the hijacker has been collecting monthly rental of R21‚000. I am happy that the owner of this property will finally take control of it."

The mayor also gave an update on the progress of the city’s drive against hijacked buildings. He said 22 properties had been handed back to their rightful owners. About 300 buildings have been confirmed as hijacked after an audit of about 500 "bad" properties‚ 24 of which belong to the city. Fifteen property hijackers have been arrested so far.