Ten people have been arrested during a sting operation at a hijacked property in Belgravia, Jeppestown in Johannesburg, mayor Herman Mashaba said on Sunday.

They were arrested on Friday and would be charged with malicious damage to property, trespassing, and contempt of court. The suspects were detained at the Jeppestown police station and would appear in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday, he said.

“I was informed that the property’s rightful owner bought the space in 2009 and had been renting it out to the tenants who, subsequently, hijacked the building. In 2016, the tenants began refusing to pay their monthly rentals.”

In March this year, the owner obtained an eviction order. The tenants were evicted but they forcefully moved back onto the property the same day, Mashaba said.

“I am pleased that we were able to assist another property owner whose property was in the hands of hijackers. The total number of properties that have been handed back to the rightful owners is 23.”

Hijacked properties was one of the major problems facing the city but strides were being made in addressing the problem, he said.

“Criminals must know that they might run but there is no place for them to hide in Johannesburg. I would like to thank the South African Police Service(SAPS) Gauteng provincial commissioner Lt-Gen Deliwe de Lange for her commitment in addressing the challenge we are faced with by establishing a dedicated team that will investigate property hijackings in conjunction with the city.