MK Vets run rental racket

THE hijacking of flats at the flagship Aloe Ridge housing complex has escalated, with MK veterans now renting out seized premises, pocketing the rent themselves, and causing the developer to default on mortgage repayments. The situation is now so dire that the CEO of Capital City Housing has appealed to President Cyril Ramaphosa for help.

The invasion of Aloe Ridge in Pietermaritzburg in March was conducted by veterans from different liberation movements who initially occupied 100 flats out of the 950 in the complex. The number has now risen to 330, and members of ANC’s Mkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) have apparently driven out comrades in arms and taken control for themselves.

Describing how occupiers from other liberation movements had been driven out by MKMVA members, an Apla (Azanian People’s Liberation Army) veteran, who was one of the original invaders, said: “They are armed to the teeth, if you go against their wishes they kicked down our door in the middle of the night and throw you outside the complex.”

The Apla veteran, who now lives elsewhere and who does not wish to be named for security reasons, said the MK veterans were now renting out their units to the public and pocketing the money. “They are charging between R1 500 to R2 000 a month per unit. I know an individual who has taken over 10 units and is currently pocketing close to R20 000 a month in rent.

“When the invasion started in March 100 units were occupied. That number has since risen to 330, with people from as far as Durban calling themselves MKMVA members grabbing more and more units,” he said.

The housing development is a flagship public-private project, and the largest of its kind in the country, and is designed to help people with low incomes to have access to rental accommodation within the city.

Aloe Ridge was developed by non-profit organisation (NPO) Capital City Housing with the support of the Human Settlements Department.

When the war veterans invaded the complex in March they claimed that they were homeless and had got tired of being on the waiting list.

However, when The Witness visited the complex on Monday, the majority of people occupying the units turned out to be civilians with no claims to being ex-combatants.

One tenant said: “I moved in in April after a friend had told me that the war vets are renting out some flats. I paid R1 000 deposit and my monthly rental for the one-bedroom apartment is R1 500.” The money is not being paid over to the developer.

The escalation in the hijacking of apartments at the complex takes place at a time when MKMVA members in the Moses Mabhida region have embarked on a programme to demand jobs and tenders from the region’s municipalities. Last week the ANC in the province threatened disciplinary measures against MKMVA members who staged sit-ins at uMgungundlovu, Msunduzi and Richmond, and where mayors and municipal managers were threatened with violence if they failed to allocate jobs and tenders to MKMVA members.

Mzo Kheswa, the MKMVA chairperson in the Moses Mabhida region, said yesterday the regional leadership was investigating the hijacking of more units in Aloe Ridge.

“We have set up a committee at the complex that will brief us during the course of the week. What we have been told is that there are now lots of people at the complex who are not ex-combatants.

“Indeed it is true that when the war veterans moved in they said they were doing it because they don’t have a roof over their heads. We are puzzled to hear that people are renting out the houses,” said Kheswa.

Ivor Caldecott, the CEO of Capital City Housing (CCH), said the company has defaulted on its mortgage repayment due the income shortfall as a result of the illegal occupation of flats. “We are already R4,8 million in arrears and the situation is becoming dire. We have even gone to the extent of writing to the presidency requesting for intervention but we are yet to get a response,” he said.