Allegations surface

2018-11-27 06:01

Conflict surrounding Cape Town social housing organisation, Communicare, is far from over, with reports recently surfacing of action being taken against staff.

It is understood this action follows corruption allegations within the organisation.

People’s Post reported previously that Communicare had started revamping and expanding its properties, as well as renewing leases (“Building concerns”, 30 October).

Details of the new leases caused a stir as tenants started complaining, with others left confused with the terms that came with the plans to revamp some of their properties.

The rents have reportedly increased by between 9% and 15%.

However, Communicare has, since these reports emerged, maintained that they have been misunderstood and have been following a holistic approach.

Affected residences are in areas including Thornton, Ruyterwacht, Brooklyn, Diep River, Rondebosch and Milnerton.

Added to this is a newly emerged report of staff members being probed in allegations of corruption.

Although the tenants accuse the CEO, Anthea Houston, of misusing the residences’ funds, Communicare confirms that certain staff members who are suspected of wrong doings are being investigated for corruption­.

She says because of this, the employees involved have opted to take leave.

Giving more context to this, Houston said: “Communicare initiated an independent investigation after allegations of corruption involving a few employees in our maintenance department were brought to our attention by tenants and employees.

“I can confirm that because of the investigation a few employees have taken a leave of absence. The board and I have a zero-tolerance approach to corruption. Severe action will be taken against employees found guilty of infringing our values of integrity and accountability.”

She could not give specifics as to whether these employees have been officially charged.

This statement was disputed by one of the employees involved.

The employee, who asked to remain anonymous because of the pending investigation, has been with the organisation for 10 years. The source believes the employees under investigation are being targeted because the organisation is trying to avoid giving them packages as long-serving employees.

The source confirmed that there are eight employees under investigation.

“We got letters early this month, but they are dated 26 October. No charges [were] stated. All we know is we are investigated for corruption.

“There has been no clear explanation and it is frustrating. We have families to maintain­.”

The source continued they have heard that they are accused of accepting bribes in exchange for rental properties.

Tenants told People’s Post that there had been “exorbitant” rent increases on their leases, which they do not approve of, resulting in them being “threatened with eviction letters”.

Tenants of different residences say, for the third time this year, they have been issued with letters of eviction.

One of the residents who received a letter of eviction was Moerida Morat.

She has reportedly taken the matter to court.

However, she says Communicare then withdrew the eviction on Monday 19 November, a day before the court date.

Alan Mkhunqwana also received a letter and showed it to People’s Post together with a statement showing that he owes an amount which he says he has already paid.

Again, Houston could not provide specifics on these cases.

She says Communicare cannot discuss information pertaining to tenants.

“We cannot report on any tenant’s personal affairs in the media without their consent. However, it should be noted that evictions are not granted by letter or by landlords­.

“In the case of Communicare, the notice would have followed a process of engagement with a tenant to understand the reasons why a tenant may not be paying their rent. If the tenant doesn’t vacate the unit, having received notice, then we have to proceed to the courts to ask for an eviction order­.”

The Communicare NPO has recently established Good Find Properties, a private company.

Spokesperson for the provincial minister of social development, Cayla Murray, says Communicare is registered as a non-profit company.

“A portion of their portfolio of services falls within the requirement of registration for an NPO. This refers to their social housing and low-cost rentals to vulnerable families and older persons. The residents can also approach the Housing Tribunal.”


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