ICYMI: ‘Renovations will take 18 to 24 months,’ says owner of hijacked Cape York

Photo: Tshepiso Mametela. TAKING ACTION: A construction vehicle offloads building material to seal off the entrance at Cape York on 6 July while ward 60 councillor Nokuthula Xaba (inset, far left) watches on.


For years, the hijacked Cape York building in Jeppe Street in the Joburg CBD has been a source of terror for residents and the city at large.

One of about 85 such buildings in the inner city, the building was the scene of a raging fire that claimed the lives of seven people on 5 July. According to reports, a similar incident occurred when a fire broke out in the building in 2013, killing four people, including a one-year-old child.

Photo: Tshepiso Mametela. STILL HOPE: Cape York, a notorius hijacked building since about 2011, will be transformed into a residential and retail space by its new owner.

It reportedly housed the offices of the Bank of Mozambique before volatile economic conditions forced the bank to close up shop in 2011.

Following the latest incident, preliminary investigations by the Johannesburg Emergency Medical Services have concluded that the cause of the fire is undetermined. Witnesses who lived in the building, however, claimed that the fire was the result of a curtain that caught fire during a squabble between occupants.

Cape York has since been declared unsafe, resulting in hundreds of the building’s occupants being displaced. Scores of women and children were, however, transferred to a temporary shelter at the Wembley Stadium in Turffontein on 8 July. A number of others still linger outside the building in the hope of being let back inside, however, the owner sealed off the entrance with brick and mortar on 6 July.

Photo: Tshepiso Mametela. HARD AT WORK: Workers prepare bricks and sand in an effort to seal off the entrance to the hijacked Cape York building in the Johannesburg CBD following a fire that ravaged the building on 5 July.

Property developer Jamal Fatto (45), an Ethiopian national, purchased Cape York for an estimated R9.2 million from the Bank of Mozambique in 2014. However, for three years, the businessman battled to transform it into a viable residential and retail space.

Speaking to the publication, Fatto said, “I’m just sealing the entrance until we prepare to start construction in order to convert it into residential flats. We’ve put fencing all around so that people will no longer enter the building.

“Everything is fine now and we’ve [finally managed to] gain control of the building.”

City Buzz previously reported that since purchasing the property, Fatto struggled to gain control of the building, despite approaching the courts and local government organisations for assistance. “We’ve been stuck since buying the building in 2014. We needed the government of South Africa to help us, but nothing had happened. Even after applying to the courts, I was still not able to secure the building.”

Asked what his reasons were for purchasing a derelict building, Fatto said it was due to its size. He added that construction on the building would be completed in the medium-to-long term. “Cape York will not be what it looks like now after we’ve completed renovations in the next 18 to 24 months,” he indicated.

Photo: Tshepiso Mametela. TAKING ACTION: A construction vehicle offloads building material to seal off the entrance at Cape York on 6 July while ward 60 councillor Nokuthula Xaba (inset, far left) watches on.

“This is a huge building – when I bought the building there weren’t as many people living in it. There were probably only 100 people living inside, but that number increased as they made their way from neighbouring hijacked buildings into this one.”

Read: UPDATE: Tensions run high outside Cape York amid stand-off with vigilante group

Tell us if you think private ownership will ease the burden of the number of buildings which are hijacked in the inner city by posting your comments on our Facebook Page

Tshepiso Mametela

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