Tenants live in fear

2018-03-15 17:29
Military veterans at Aloe Ridge.

Military veterans at Aloe Ridge. (Ian Carbutt )

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Tenants at the Aloe Ridge social housing complex in Westgate say they are feeling nervous as military veterans continue to illegally seize and occupy rental units.

The Witness was informed on Wednesday that to date, about 300 residential units have been seized at Village 1 of the complex since the invasion two weeks ago.

The complex owners, Capital City Housing, had secured a court interdict against the invaders but it was withdrawn this week.

Security guards at the complex said although they have tried to ward off the former military veterans who disregard the “no illegal occupancy” signs put up around the complex, they too fear harassment.

A Capital City Housing employee, stationed at the complex, who declined to be named, said the continuing appropriation was intimidating other tenants.

“The veterans walk around the complex in groups looking for vacant units and no one can tell them anything. We are all scared. If they can chase away the sheriff of the court, it means they are untouchable,” said the employee.

He added that even individuals who are not members of SA’s former liberation movements had recently been walking into the complex.

“There are young women staying in the complex with their children. Their fear is these men could come knocking at their doors and harm them.”

Nomusa Mdluli, a tenant at the complex, said they have been “left in the dark” concerning the issue.

“Most of the tenants didn’t know the flats were seized. We read about it in the newspapers. I personally fear for my safety because there could be bloodshed if the occupiers are forcefully removed.”

Mdluli, who has been living at the complex for six months, said she pays R1 200 rent for her two-bedroom unit.

“It’s not fair that they just moved in for free. Other tenants’ rent is up to R2 600. Rent is expected to increase in June. If they are staying here they must comply.”

The Aloe Ridge project, with 950 units, is designed to help low-income groups access rental accommodation within the city.

More than 650 of the 950 apartments have already been leased to low-income tenants while the units that are occupied by the war veterans were in the process of being allocated to beneficiaries — mainly people earning below R7 500 a month.

Siyanda Mchunu (30), a security guard, said he was unhappy that the property owners had allowed the veterans to do as they please.

“We also have people in our families who fought in the struggle but we don’t go around invading private properties. We understand that housing is allocated in due course,” said Mchunu.

He said the former military veterans had been demanding services they are not paying for.

“They asked the security guards where they are supposed to park their vehicles. Tenants with cars here pay a monthly parking fee.”

Another resident said she feared that the former veterans would incite lawlessness in the complex.

“If they are now fighting among themselves for the units, they could forcefully remove us to occupy more units,” said the tenant.

MKMVA regional secretary Menzi Mkhize, who is also directly involved in the invasion, said there has been no intimidation of other tenants.

“We have not intimidated any civilians. Our job is to protect. Whoever said that has been influenced by certain individuals to portray a wrong image about us.”

Mkhize said veterans were prepared to pay for electricity and water if required.

“Some of us are destitute but those who have jobs are willing to pay.”

He said the property owners had resolved that they would submit a list of all the occupiers to the Human Settlements Department to be compensated for rent.

Capital City Housing chief executive officer Ivor Caldecott said the boards of directors had decided to hold a stay on eviction, pending negotiations.

“Capital City Housing NPC understands that it is caught in the middle of the cross-fire of these negotiations which we are led to believe have been ongoing for some time.

“It is unfortunate that the needs of the war veterans were not attended to earlier by the relevant stakeholders and consequently now we are being targeted and financially prejudiced,” said Caldecott.

He implored the relevant departments to assist in the negotiations in seeking a permanent solution for housing of the veterans. “Our entity as a social housing institution operates on a very lean budget and consequently loss of income to this magnitude can be disastrous as loans are payable monthly.”

The crisis is set for discussion in the human settlements portfolio committee today.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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