Almost 200 former combatants from the military arms of the ANC, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) or the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo), on Monday invaded and occupied more than 200 units at the Aloe Ridge complex in Westgate Grange, Pietermaritzburg, News24 reported on Tuesday.
The invaders all allegedly served in the ANC's uMkhonto weSizwe, the PAC's Azanian People's Liberation Army (Apla) or Azapo's Azanian National Liberation Army (Azanla).
The group justified its action by claiming that provincial government had failed to deliver on its promise to provide ex-combatants with free housing.
Bobo Mndaweni, one of the group's leaders, said the theft of the housing was part of "radical economic transformation", and that invading the complex was part of a programme "to empower our members who are currently wallowing in poverty".
He also warned that it was only the beginning.
"What is happening here is a peaceful process done by the disciplined cadres of joint military veterans," Mndaweni said – although reports of an assault on a staff member during the invasion belie his claim of a "peaceful" process.
A manager at Capital City Housing, the nonprofit company that manages the development, said the ex-combatants had been trying to invade the complex since last week Saturday. The property company has been made aware of the ex-combatants' plans, and was therefore ready for them when they came – with the help of South African Police Service (SAPS) and the complex's security.
The group was turned back over the weekend, but returned in full force on Monday.
"However, when we called the police [on Monday, after] we were told that the invaders were around the complex, the SAPS took too long to respond.
"The invaders, many of whom were heavily armed, confronted the site manager and beat her up, forcing her to hand over the keys to the vacant units," the manager reported.
The site manager said that a misunderstanding lies behind the invasion – because the government issued a grant for the building of the complex, many people think that it is government-owned.
"The fact of the matter is that the complex is owned by Capital City Housing, a private entity," the manager said.
An urgent court interdict against the invaders is said to be in the works. Police have said that they cannot act unless a case has been opened, and no case has yet been opened.