A senior treasury official has been accused of trying to evict tenants from a Johannesburg flat that she owns by breaking down and removing the doors and supergluing the locks of the security gates.
The official’s lawyer, Kevin Barnard, described the alleged raid as a “renovation”.
However, during a visit to the flat, the Mail & Guardian was able to ascertain that superglue had been applied to the locks of the security gates to prevent them from being opened or closed.
The official, Dumebi Ubogu, was allegedly assisted by her brother and two other people.
The tenants, Jordanian petroleum consultant Khalid Ghannam and his wife, Leila, said the group had carried knives, screwdrivers and hammers during the operation on January 7 this year.
Ghannam said that in an effort to secure the flat after the alleged raid, they had attached the security gates to the wall with adhesive tape.
He said that Ubogu, a senior economist in the treasury’s economic policy department, had not obtained an eviction order, as is legally required.
Attorney Reynaud Daniels, of the law firm Cheadle Thompson & Haysom, confirmed that, according to the verbal month-to-month lease agreement, Ubogu should have given Ghannam until the end of January to move out. “If she wanted him out at the end of December, it was illegal to give him 48 hours’ notice without a court order,” Daniel said.
Ubogu is the owner of unit 11 Wykeham, 161 Bagley Terrace in Northcliff, where Ghannam and his wife have lived since September 2010. She refused to comment, referring the M&G to Barnard.
The M&G has seen the emailed eviction notice sent to the Jordanians on December 30 last year, which ordered them to evacuate the apartment by December 31 2011.
It accused Ghannam of threatening to withhold rent “unless I reinstate a lapsed contract on your terms via an email you sent me on the 25th of December 2011. I have informed you that I am not interested in continuing a contract with you.”
Ghannam said that when he and his wife failed to move out of the apartment by the stipulated date, Ubogu turned up on their doorstep on January 7 with her three companions to forcibly evict them.
“They broke into our apartment from the kitchen after breaking and removing the wooden kitchen door,” he said.
“Then they removed the wooden door of the main entrance and damaged the security locks of the kitchen and the main door, leaving us unprotected.
“During this process, my pregnant wife was pushed and she almost fell over. Ubogu and her gang even applied glue to where the doors were, making it impossible for us to replace them.” Leila Ghannam has since given birth.
Ghannam said he had installed new doors at a cost of R17 000. He complained about the incident at the Ferndale Police Station, where it was recorded in the occurrence book with the reference number OB33/01/2012.
Barnard described the allegations as “nonsense”, saying “everything was done formally” as part of a renovation.
Initially, he claimed that Ubogu had opened a case against Ghannam and said he could not comment because the matter was before court. But when asked for the case number, Barnard said that a court order for the eviction would only be issued this week.
* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email [email protected]
The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.