Mansion squatter held for housebreaking

The condemned house at 44 Echo Road.

A man who has been squatting in a condemned mansion in Echo Road for several years has been arrested on a housebreaking charge.

Neighbours of 44 Echo Road – which has been declared as a problem building by the City – say Sipho Mxengo, 39, also known as “Little Jesus”, has been terrorising them since 2018.

He was arrested on Thursday January 14 after he allegedly broke into the house of Ilse Schmidt, who lives opposite the condemned house.

It’s not Mr Mxengo’s first brush with the law. He was also arrested in June 2019 after two neighbours accused him of making a fire in the house. The fire brigade had to be called out to stop it spreading to the dry bushes and surrounding properties. He could not be charged with trespassing as the owner of the property did not open a case against him and he was released.

It was also reported that he shouted profanities at the neighbours, freely entered their properties to use their taps and behaved in a generally “aggressive” way.

According to Ms Schmidt, she woke around 9.30am on January 14, hearing someone turning the door handles in her house and thought it was her mother, but when she opened her bedroom door she found Mr Mxengo standing in front of her. When he saw her, he ran away, grabbing an extension cord on his way out.

Ms Schmidt said she had been so rattled that she had been unable to make a call but had eventually alerted the neighbourhood WhatApp group.

“The armed response team was there within minutes and police arrived shortly afterwards. They searched everywhere, but he was nowhere to be found. He was arrested in Beach Road later that afternoon,” she said.

Mr Mxengo had entered her house through a small window, she said.

Ms Schmidt said she often saw Mr Mxengo watching her and her neighbours.

Mr Mxengo appeared in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday January 15 on charges of housebreaking and theft. He will remain in custody until his next court appearance later this month.

Ms Schmidt said the house had been a problem for many years but the owner refused to do anything about it.

“Many people knock on my door and ask about the house and some express interest in buying it, but he (the owner) is not interested,” she said.

Another neighbour, who lives behind the property and did not want to be identified, said he had found braai tongs wedged into a window in an attempted break-in in December. He had reported the incident to the police, but nothing had come of it , he said.

Fish Hoek police spokesman Warrant Officer Peter Middelton confirmed the arrest and said it was the responsibility of the owner of the property to make a case of trespassing if someone was illegally on their premises.

However, he said, in a case where the house was condemned, it would be the responsibility of the City, or in this case, law enforcement which acts on behalf of the City, especially if there is a sign outside the property indicating no trespassing.

However, law enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason, disagrees. He said it was up to SAPS to deal with crimes on the property and incidents should be reported to them.

“The owner bears full responsibility for what occurs on the property and can be held liable for it,” he said.

Owner of the house, Johannes Nigrini, 83, who lives in Panorama, said he had bought the house about 25 years ago.

It had been his dream and that of his late wife to live there but the house had fallen into ruin due to circumstances beyond his control. The house had been vandalised while he had been renovating it, a contractor had scammed him, and he had also lost all his power tools and supplies in burglaries, he said.

He said he had not given anyone permission to live there and could not be held responsible if vagrants tore down the boarding that had been put up to keep them out.

“It was my dream and that of my sweetheart to live there and I intend to fix it up and live there. I’m not interested in selling it. It is my dream to enjoy that view again,” he said.