War vets steal electricity

As the MK war vets’ rampage continues, it has emerged that taxpayers have been footing the electricity bill of ex-combatants who have hijacked hundreds of flats at Pietermaritzburg’s flagship Aloe Ridge rental housing complex.

An investigation by The Witness has revealed that the war vets have made illegal electricity connections at all the 242 flats they have hijacked and which they are now renting out to the public.

Despite collecting thousands of rands in rentals for the hijacked flats since March, the war vets have not been paying for the electricity.

The Witness has established that the electricity being used by the tenants renting the hijacked flats is being drawn from the Msunduzi Municipality grid through an illegal connection arranged by the war vets.

Tenants renting the flats from the war vets told The Witness that despite pay-as you-go electricity meters having been installed in the houses, they had never been used.

“When we arrived at the complex the war vets told us we don’t have to worry about buying electricity as the rent was inclusive of electricity and water. All the houses taken over by the war vets have illegal connections,” said a tenant, who asked not to be named for safety reasons.

This as it emerged that the majority of the war vets, who when invading the complex in March claimed to be homeless, were renting out the hijacked flats for up to R2 000 a month per unit and pocketing the cash.

“The truth is that about 90% of people occupying the hijacked flats have no links with the so called war veterans — we are just ordinary citizens looking for cheaper rental accommodation,” another tenant said.

The housing complex, which was developed by non-government organisation (NGO) Capital City Housing with support from government, had been designed to provide affordable rental accommodation to low-income people working around the city of Pietermaritzburg.

Capital City Housing CEO Ivor Caldecott who disclosed that the company was losing R800 000 a month as a direct result of the war vets’ illegal occupation, confirmed that the ex-combatants have tampered with the “water and electricity meters”.

The illegal connection of electricity is a criminal offence punishable by either imprisonment or a hefty fine.

There are strong perceptions that the war vets, who are also on a campaign to force municipalities around the Midlands to dish out jobs and tenders to ex-combatants, are being treated with kid gloves by authorities due to the former soldiers’ links to the ANC.

Asked whether the Msunduzi Municipality would be taking any steps against the war vets for the illegal connections, the council spokesperson, Thobeka Mafumbatha, said the city has to first gather evidence.

“We will investigate the matter,” she said.

The war vets continued their rampage despite threats by ANC provincial leaders to take action against the ex-combatants.

Mkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) Moses Mabhida chairperson, Mzo Kheswa, said the organisation was concerned about developments at Aloe Ridge.

“It is true that it was our members who initiated the processes of taking over the flats, but the sad reality is that people from outside have now moved in and are causing chaos.

“We have requested a report from our members at the complex and will be taking the necessary steps once we receive a full report,” he said.

The 242 hijacked flats form part of the complex’s 950 units currently being rented out by Capital City Housing to low-income groups.