Deadly battle for a bed

2015-05-25 12:21

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POLICE and government officials have been accused of having blood on their hands as the body count at the Glebelands hostel in Umlazi continues to rise.

In the past week alone three people have been murdered, bringing to 27 the number of people who have died in the past 14 months.

Sipho Ndovela (43) was shot and killed outside the Umlazi Court on Monday, May 18; and Sphamandla Hlongwane (40) was shot outside his room at the hostel on Thursday, May 21.

Community activist Vanessa Burger told The Witness that Ndovela had been a witness in two important cases against a hostel warlord and that Hlongwane had been a member of the warlord’s faction.

“The third, assassinated late last night [May 22], was a brother of Thulani Kathi, himself taken out at a busy taxi rank on April 10 this year,” said Burger.

“In almost all these cases, as with the other 24 murders, the police claim there are no witnesses [and] few leads.”

The violence at the hostel is believed to have its roots in the allocation of beds and housing at the hostel by eThekwini Muncipality, which manages the site.

Some of those living at Glebelands have allegedly received threats to force them out, while others have had their belongings stolen.

There is also anger that the death of Glebelands’ resident, Zinakile Fica, on March 13, 2014, allegedly at the hands of Umlazi SAPS officers, has not been properly investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). “Complaints to the SA Human Rights Commission, the public protector, the SAPS provincial commissioner and the IPID have either been met with silence, or have been unsuccessful in stemming the flow of blood from Glebelands hostel,” Burger said.

“KZN’s leaders have the blood of too many hostel dwellers on their hands. It is time they stepped down.”

The police have, however, denied letting the Glebelands residents down.

“We are investigating all murders and other violent cases that were reported at Glebeland hostel,” said Major Thulani Zwane, spokesperson for the SAPS.

“Those who claim that police have done nothing are obviously newcomers to the scene who are siding with groups at the hostel.

“Since violence emerged last year we have deployed additional manpower to stabilise the situation at the hostel, including public order police (POP) members.

“These deployments will remain in place and operations will be conducted despite resistance from groups within the hostel.”

Willies Mchunu, the MEC Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, said meanwhile, urged anyone who might have any information on the murders to come forward.

He added that a multi-disciplinary team from the SAPS and Department of Community Safety and Liaison was working at the hostel to end this conflict.

“This plan includes bringing to the table the parties in conflict with a view of brokering a lasting peace,” he said.

Zwane said the SAPS also welcomed initiatives that brought about peace and stability at the hostel.

“Police alone cannot resolve the conflict at the hostel and residents and leaders at the hostel must have the will and commitment to bring an end to the violence also,” he added.

Dr Rishigen Viranna, the DA’s spokesperson for community safety, said the party was sceptical about the assurances given by the MEC and police, especially given that a task team, created in September 2014, was withdrawn after just one month.

“The Premier and the MEC are playing lip service to the issue of violence at the Glebelands hostel,” Viranna said.

“The task force [made up of members of the Department of Community Safety and Liaison, eThekwini’s Safer Cities iniative, the eThekwini region of the ANC and the South African Police Services] did stop the violence, but since it was withdrawn violence has escalated.

“We need consistent acion over a long period of time to make a difference and only then can negotiations happen to bring about a permanent peace.”

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