Glebelands Solidarity Month 13 March – 13 April

Call for community support, solidarity, action and awareness

glebelands hostel, Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Seventy-seven lives have now been lost in the violence that has gripped Glebelands Hostel since 13 March 2014, has infected the local taxi industry and spread to political killings on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast.

On Sunday the 26th of February, the 77th victim, a man rumoured to have been a feared hitman, was gunned down by unknown assailants near Blocks 53 and 49.

Sources allege that around 14h30, a VW Polo sans registration plates arrived at the scene, three strangers emerged and bought a beer at a nearby tavern. A police vehicle was reportedly parked on the road next to the blocks but apparently left a short while after the Polo arrived. As soon as the police left the hit took place. Sources claim that it seemed that the deceased was specifically targeted. Two other men injured during the gunfight that apparently lasted almost 20 minutes, are believed to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After it was all over, Glebelands was crawling with police – 7 months too late, however, for the 12 who died since police and the provincial authorities were alerted that hitmen had vowed to renew the killing, irrespective of any ‘peace process.’ It seems they failed to take this seriously.

The motive for the latest assassination remains unknown. At Glebelands the criminal underworld is fluid and hitmen who have been hired to take out a councilor on Monday will aim their R5s at a taxi boss on Tuesday, engage in a little peace committee hunting on Wednesday, and round off the week with a hijack or three.

The deceased in this case was rumoured to have been close to the notorious Durban Central SAPS detective who allegedly recruits and arms many of Glebelands’ hitmen. There is no honour among cops and robbers.

“THERE CAN BE NO PEACE AT GLEBELANDS”  

After months of ignoring the slaughter, Glebelands’ peace facilitator, Sbu Xulu, finally convened a meeting last week during which community leaders repeated demands made since 2012 that: “There can be no peace at Glebelands until action is taken against those causing it. Recall the ward councilor; disband and allow the community to freely and fairly re-elect a new branch executive committee; and arrest police members involved in collusion, corruption and torture – remove Umlazi SAPS.”

After the murder last year of ANC councilor, Zodwa Sibiya, a shocked police officer was overheard saying, “Glebelands will not be free until God takes Mzobe!”

Whatever wild and variable excuses the authorities have made over the years for the sustained carnage, and despite the increasing number of voices silenced by hitmen’s bullets, community leaders have remained steadfast in their struggle for accountable administration and proper participatory processes.

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Of course, Durban’s own little Syria need never have developed if the various state departments had done what they were supposed to, and politicians had kept their bloody hands out of the criminal justice system and public purse.

After the former Public Protector’s report unequivocally substantiated the community’s complaints about the police, eThekwini Municipality and Department of Social Development, there can be little doubt that the mayhem at Glebelands is orchestrated by certain state players to serve certain political and economic interests, while other state players – who at the very least must have been fully aware of circumstances – have washed their hands to the fate of thousands of poor hostel residents.

POLICE COLLUSION

13 March 2014 marked the beginning of the state’s involvement in the Glebelands slaughter with the murder of former block chairperson, Zinakile Fica, who was tortured – tubed to death by a detective and other members of the Umlazi SAPS – after he was accused of crimes he did not commit. Police have since then targeted many other former block committee members. No officer has been held accountable for Fica’s murder.

Since Fica died at least 13 other community members have been brutally tortured and many others assaulted, robbed, forcibly photographed, falsely arrested, placed under what would seem to be illegal surveillance, coerced to pay bribes, or had their homes and belongings vandalized by police.

Officers’ involvement in the violence and in other criminal activities has been well documented and information at times provided by informants from within the service itself. Despite copious complaints, statements and evidence provided to the IPID and intelligence structures, not one SAPS member has ever been held to account.

POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT

On 13 April 2014, exactly a month after Fica’s death, ANC women’s league members marched ahead of a group of thugs in the first brutal attack on a block chairmen at Block 57. He was evicted and lost all his possessions when his room was later ransacked – allegedly with police cooperation – and petrol bombed. Block committees, most vociferous in demanding the ward councilor’s recall amid cries of corruption, were systematically targeted.

Wave after wave of evictions followed, including many vulnerable women and children. The socioeconomic fallout and human rights abuses were devastating and felt as far as the Eastern Cape, yet reports of the community’s suffering failed to goad the SAHRC or faith leaders to conclusive action.

Before and after these incidents, community leaders repeatedly cited the ANC’s not-so-hidden hand in the Glebelands slaughter. Many have directly accused the ward councilor, the BEC and their tame cops – right up the chain of command – for the violence. Too many of these individuals are now dead (some killed at court) for this to be an unfortunate, recurring coincidence. There is never smoke without fire.

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Some claim the ward councilor is of the same clan as the president and enjoys his unwavering support. Others, including former ANC councilors, allege the councilor and his handlers are critically placed to ensure a steady flow of funds from hostel budgets via questionable tenders using politically connected contractors for personal and party enrichment.

The astounding disparity between vast hostel budgets – including the millions wasted on ineffectual ‘security measures’ – and ground level delivery provides ample evidence to justify a full forensic audit and investigation. Even the police have suggested this would effectively staunch the blood that flows from Glebelands. But where has a state department been left standing that is suitably independent to carry out such a task?

Nowhere in our country has the impact of an increasingly authoritarian, brutal, corrupt, greedy and paranoid regime been more obvious or devastating, than at Glebelands.

With the exception of the Cape Flats ganglands, nowhere else has the rule of law broken down to the degree that it has at Glebelands. It took the Nigerian government, in the face of renewed xenophobic violence, to force our ambassador to admit that yes, we DO indeed have a problem with our police. At Glebelands, authorities are still urging the community to “work with the police.” Really.

While many civil society organisations highlight the difficulties poor communities face when trying to access their rights and exercise their democratic freedoms; at Glebelands, the constitution is dead. Democracy is dead. Both are buried deep under the corpses of a community on which our country has turned its back.

From March 13 this year, Glebelands will be moving into its fourth year of almost continuous violence.

The community’s demands are simple:

  1. Recall ward 76 councilor Robert Mzobe;
  2. Disband the branch executive committee and allow the free and fair election of representatives chosen by the community;
  3. Remove Umlazi SAPS and bring in officers from other areas who are rotated regularly;
  4. Arrest and prosecute ALL SAPS members involved in corruption, torture and those colluding with killers;
  5. Initiate a fully independent forensic investigation and audit of all tender process and contracts;
  6. Hear and respect the community’s wishes;
  7. Ensure proper participation, accountability and transparency in all hostel-related decision-making processes;
  8. Full compensation for all violence victims.

ISSUED BY: Vanessa Burger (Independent Community Activist for Human Rights & Social Justice)