Cost of MK Vets R800k/month
A political solution needs to be found to sort out the illegal occupation by Mkhonto weSizwe Veterans of 242 social housing units at Aloe Ridge, said Capital City Housing CEO Ivor Caldecott.
It has been seven months since the so-called veterans occupied flats at Aloe Ridge, a project with a total of 950 rental units, which is currently the biggest social housing project of its kind in the country.
He said that from what they could gather, the veterans had chosen Aloe Ridge because they had believed it was a government project.
The MK Veterans claim they have occupied the project because they had been promised houses since 1994, but these never materialised.
Capital City Housing is a non-governmental organisation, and its Aloe Ridge project is 60% funded by grants from the Department of Human Settlements, while 40% is funded through loans through the National Housing Finance Corporation.
Caldecott, in his first face-to-face interview since the occupation, said the project had been doing well up to the end of January, with some 700 units let out in less than a year after the project was officially launched.
He said the occupation had been very stressful for him and his staff, even though they had not been threatened by the veterans, and they had received no reports from the other 694 tenants of them being threatened in any way by the veterans.
Capital City Housing obtained a court interdict to evict the veterans on March 5 this year.
But Caldecott said a police eviction with military support was not the right solution.
“We held it [the court order] in abeyance. We did this after looking at the costs of the eviction, and after we assessed the possible dangers to staff, property and even other tenants, and from a general safety point of view,” he said.
“I believe we did the right thing. The guys are armed and a trained force,” he said.
On the other hand, he said, the company could also not continue to lose out on rent of about R800 000 per month for the Aloe Ridge project.
Caldecott said there had been, according to his knowledge, nine other occupations of social housing in the country this year, which in some cases, simply involved tenants refusing to pay their rent.
“We [the social housing industry] have never had problems like this before,” said Caldecott.
“The ideal solution, for us, would be for either the Department of Human Settlements or Department of Military Veterans to pay the rents of veterans for a period, perhaps two years, until the veterans are able to move to homes that are specifically built for them,” said Caldecott.
THE Human Settlements Department said last week they were not involved in the decision to stop the eviction of the war vets from Aloe Ridge.
“The company that owns the complex took the decision not to pursue the legal route,” provincial Human Settlements Department spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said.
Baloyi, however, said the national Human Settlements Department was in the process of setting up a meeting with the war vets, the Military Veterans Department and other stakeholders including Msunduzi Municipality to address the problem in Aloe Ridge.
MK Veterans have recently escalated their campaign to force Msunduzi and other municipalities to give them jobs and tenders. The ANC leadership in KZN has since warned that action will be taken in the event of further unlawful takeovers.