Glebelands killings: Why there are no convictions

Glebelands Hostel residents. (Right2Know KZN via GroundUp)
Glebelands Hostel residents. (Right2Know KZN via GroundUp)

Durban – Out of the 92 people that have been murdered at the notorious Glebelands Hostel in Umlazi, south of Durban, not even a single murderer has been convicted.

KwaZulu-Natal police claim that the lack of convictions has to do with “witnesses that are not willing to co-operate with our investigating officers”.

A woman, 30, was the latest victim to be shot dead at the hostel on Thursday night at about 20:30.

She was inside her residential block when she was shot by an unknown gunman "who managed to flee the scene without being observed by any resident".

READ: Understanding and addressing political violence in KZN

Last week, a 32-year-old man died upon arrival at hospital after he was shot several times in the head, while a 53-year-old woman was killed later in her tuck-shop after two men acting as customers approached her.

Media reports had suggested that control over the allocation of rooms and beds lies at the root of the killings which began in 2015.

KZN acting provincial commissioner Major-General Bheki Langa revealed that a number of arrests had been made by police deployed at the hostel for crimes such as murder, attempted murder and possession of unlicensed firearms.

“However, we are concerned that witnesses in other cases are not prepared to co-operate with our investigating officers, allowing these killers to roam freely,” he said.

READ: Glebelands Hostel a 'reservoir of hitmen', corrupt cops

It was very disturbing, Langa said, to find people still being killed inside the rooms or blocks that they live in.

“It once again points to the fact that the killers live amongst their victims. There can be no reason for killing someone as there are many other avenues available to resolve conflicts,” he said.

Political analysts, who have testified at the Moerane Commission, which is investigating underlying factors into political killings in the province, have said the lack of arrests were due to political interference.

The commission, headed by Advocate Marumo Moerane, with a R15m budget was set up by KZN Premier Willies Mchunu in October 2016 and began its inquiry in March.

The analysts also described the hostel as a haven for hitmen involved in political and minibus taxi killings.

READ: Glebelands hostel is dirty, overcrowded, dangerous

Glebelands Hostel Complex. (Photo: Nomfundo Xolo/GroundUp)

Violence Monitor's Mary de Haas, who was one of the first witnesses to testify, said political interference in most of these killings was one of the reasons for there being no convictions in such cases.

"Killings of witnesses spread fear to other potential witnesses who then choose to rather disappear instead of testifying."

She also revealed that tribalism at the hostel was a factor in the killings.

Some hostel dwellers that come from the north of KZN consider themselves “real Zulus”, while some who come from the south are considered to be “amaMpondo” at the hostel, heard the commission which visited the hostel last month.

In June, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane accused the eThekwini municipality, its Metro police department, the South African Police Service and the department of social development of failing the hostel’s residents.

As a result, their conduct was improper and amounted to maladministration, she said. Mkhwebane's findings followed an investigation into the violent murders at the hostel.

She told reporters that the investigation commenced after president of the Commonwealth Legal Education Association, Professor David Mcquoid-Mason, lodged a complaint about the killings that started at the hostel during unlawful evictions and displacements of hundreds of hostel residents from rooms which had been allocated to them.

Police minister Fikile Mbalula tweeted on Friday afternoon: “SAPS maintains high visibility and Stop and searches at both Glebelands entrances and exits. Searching for firearms and dangerous weapons.”

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