City caves in to MK Vets

Msunduzi officials fled to their offices while others were locked outside as former members of the ANC military wing, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK vets), stormed into City Hall demanding jobs, houses and tenders on Monday. 

And while MK Vets were recently involved in a land grab at Mpushini at Ashburton, some of those demanding jobs from the City are now to be employed in the City’s anti-land invasion unit.

The group, which got to the City Hall at around 7 am, locked the doors and did not allow anyone to enter or leave until 10 am. However, the former ANC regional chair Mthandeni Dlungwane and deputy mayor Thobani Zuma were reportedly not stopped when they made their way out of the building after 8 am.

The MK vets’ regional leadership was locked in a closed meeting with mayor Themba Njilo, acting municipal manager Neli Ngcobo and risk management head Kwenza Khumalo while a group of ex-combatants, some of whom wore their signature camouflage uniform, were singing struggle songs and toyi-toyiing in the City Hall’s lobby.

Members of the South African Police Service stood outside next to their cars and did not intervene. Some of Msunduzi’s law enforcement officers also came to the City Hall but they were seen milling around, with some chatting to the MK vets.

Last month MK veterans took over the uMgungundlovu District Municipality offices where they threatened to unleash violence if they were not given jobs and tenders.

Speaking to The Witness after Monday’s meeting, the MV Vets’ Dennis Hlela said they feel they have been sidelined from job opportunities as security officers.

“There were several posts for security officers that were advertised last year and many of our colleagues applied but to this day they haven’t been appointed and no reasons have been given,” he said.

He said during the meeting they agreed that the first batch of 53 guards would get appointment letters by Friday so that they can assume their duties next month.

“Not all of the 53 guards are our comrades but at least half of them are, so that’s a start,” he said.

Hlela said there are a few MK Vets who are already employed by the City but the majority are still struggling to make ends meet as they cannot find jobs.

“We acknowledge that some of us are old and cannot be employed as guards so we will be engaging with the municipality on how we can be supported to get into business or get the children of the ex-combatants employed in positions that they qualify for,” he said.

Mayor Njilo said Msunduzi was already in the process of appointing the qualifying MK Vets for security jobs advertised last year. He said the matter was already with the office of the acting municipal manager before Monday’s blockade.

“We agreed with them that for now all we [municipality] can offer are the letters of appointment because all the employment processes have been finalised on that but we will be engaging on their other demands because they are not things that we can deliver overnight,” he said.

Njilo said those employed as guards would be deployed to the City’s anti-land invasion unit and also be responsible for the enforcement of other by-laws.

“We didn’t discuss their demand for the tenders but anyone who wants to be awarded a tender will have to follow the supply chain management processes so when we finally engage with them on that we will tell them that,” he said.

Njilo said the Department of Human Settlements (DHS), and not Msunduzi would be building the houses for the MK Vets. He said that process is already under way as sites had already been allocated.

In March, The Witness reported that DHS had committed to make R8 million available to build housing for the military veterans from Msunduzi. At least 180 of the 411 sites had been identified for the three-phase project, which would see houses being built in Glenwood, Bishopstowe and Copesville.

In February, close to 200 former liberation movement ex-combatants illegally took occupation of several housing units at Pietermaritzburg’s flagship housing project, Aloe Ridge in Westgate-Grange.