‘Give us jobs and tenders’ - MK vets

2018-07-26 18:18
Umkhonto Wesizwe leadership (from left) Menzi Mkhize, Themba Mavundla and Mzo Shandu.

Umkhonto Wesizwe leadership (from left) Menzi Mkhize, Themba Mavundla and Mzo Shandu. (Jabulani Langa)

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In what resembled a mini coup d’état, former members of the ANC military wing, Mkhonto weSizwe, on Wednesday took over the uMgungundlovu District Municipality in Pietermaritzburg, threatening to unleash violence if they are not given jobs and tenders.

Terrified municipal employees working at the front offices could be seen leaving the building while members of the public seeking services at the municipality were turned away by men clad in camouflage uniform — who occupied the offices from 8 am to 1 pm.

In what could be seen as a move bowing to the invaders, the municipality’s leadership not only gave into the war veterans’ demand for an unscheduled meeting, but even bought the invaders lunch.

When The Witness visited the uMgungundlovu­ offices in Langalibalele Street on Wednesday morning, close to 100 ANC ex-combatants, who are affiliated to the Mkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), had taken over the reception area and all access control functions.

The Witness journalist covering the invasion was briefly allowed in, but was then kicked out while the publication’s photographer was forced to delete pictures of the invasion from his camera.

The war veterans have in recent months carried out a series of property invasions in the province with very little attempt from government to stop them.

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.

The war vets are yet to move out of the units.

During Wednesday’s takeover of the uMgungundlovu offices, neither the police nor the council security guards intervened as the veterans ran amok at the local government building.

uMgungundlovu District Municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma, who was in the meeting between the group, Mayor Thobekile Maphumulo and the municipal manager Ray Ngcobo, confirmed that the council leaders had agreed to assist the war veterans to access tenders and job opportunities at the municipality.

“The meeting went well and the mayor commended the war veterans for the peaceful manner in which they conducted themselves.

“There will be further engagements in the future. As a municipality we are obliged by law to cater for the war veterans in our programmes ranging from economic development to job creation,” he said.

Asked why the municipality’s leaders had allowed the war vets to block entrance to the council offices and turn away the public, Zuma said it was not the municipality’s responsibility to directly deal with people breaking the law.

“Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) were there when the war vets were blocking the entrance and turning away people.

“We can’t tell the police how they should do their jobs,” he said.

On the municipality’s decision to buy the war vets lunch, Zuma — who initially defended the decision as “standard practice” — later claimed that the food was not bought with council money.

“We bought the food from our own pockets as we felt that it would have been un-African to have a meeting with people for several hours and not give them something to eat,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal police, who had deployed members of the SAPS outside the offices, could not explain why they failed to intervene and stop the illegal takeover of the municipal offices.

MKMVA Moses Mabhida regional secretary Menzi Mkhize said those who occupied the uMgungundlovu offices did so in their individual capacities.

“We fully understand our members’ frustrations with the government, which despite being obliged to assist our members, is not doing anything to assist war vets to escape unemployment and poverty.

“Having said that, I must emphasise that the decision to go to uMgungundlovu was not endorsed by the MKMVA,” Mkhize said.


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