City ‘satisfied’ with Secureco hitmen

Securico patrol vehicles guarding Block O (18 October 2017). Photo by Vanessa Burger

Two Glebelands residents and employees of the politically connected private security company, Secureco METSU, contracted by the eThekwini Municipality to provide security at the hostel, have been implicated in at least 7 Glebelands murders and a further 3 attempted murders – Sivuyile Luna, whose trial for the murder of a Glebelands woman in Jan 2017, was remanded to February this year and Bongani Mbhele, for whom police recently issued a ‘wanted’ statement. Luna was a Block 52 resident while employed to undertake armed patrols at the hostel. Mbhele has been employed by Fidelity (Secureco’s holding company) since at least 2011, and although he did not perform guarding duties at the hostel, he is believed to have murdered at least 5 people by the time he was first arrested (and later released) in September 2015.

glebelands hostel, Umlazi V, Umlazi, South Africa

Two Glebelands residents and employees of the politically connected private security company, Secureco METSU, contracted in 2015 by the eThekwini Municipality to provide additional security at the hostel, have been implicated in at least 7 murders and a further 3 attempted murders. The Municipality claims it is “satisfied” with the company’s performance “so far.”

According to Secureco METSU’s website: “We will do pre-polygraph tests on all employees prior to employment in order to gain an in-site (sic) into their inherent honesty, background etc.” The site also claims: “We utilize within our own workforce, intelligence gathering agents. We find this extremely useful in finding out what collusion, if any, is taking place between our guards or between guards and the client’s employees.”

As far back as February 2015, Glebelands Hostel community members had alleged, “We hear the new private security company hires hitmen – one of them lives at Block 52, there is another at Block 57.”

Residents – some of them employed in the security industry themselves and therefore privy to industry gossip – were referring to Sivuyile Luna, the Block 52 resident currently on trial for the 2017 murder of Akhona Ngxokana. Although resident at the hostel, Secureco METSU’s stringent vetting and intelligence mechanisms saw Luna fit to guard his own turf and protect (or not) his friends and relations – a classic case of putting the jackal in charge of the hen-coop – and this time the jackal was given a gun.

Residents’ claims that Luna was running with thugs was borne out a few days after his arrest when key witness in Ngxokana’s murder, Mlungisi Cele was gunned down near the hostel.

Cele, who according to police sources had received threats immediately after Luna’s arrest, was killed before he had made a decision whether or not to enter the witness protection programme, joining the growing list of witnesses silenced by guns of Glebelands. No one has been arrested for Cele’s murder. Luna’s trial resumes this month.

In reference to Luna and other complaints of collusion between private security guards and hitmen raised during a mid-2017 meeting with hostel representatives, Station Commissioner, Brig Bongi Ntuli, who had been transferred to the Umlazi SAPS in early 2016, reportedly claimed to have been “shocked” when she heard “rumours” that a hostel resident employed by Secureco had been arrested for murder. So much for intelligence.

Hostel representatives had also grimly recalled how, on 15 February 2017, after shooting at Block R community members, hitmen allegedly fired at people standing outside a Block S tavern, killing one resident and injuring two others an elderly man and a pregnant woman who was shot in the lower abdomen. Community leaders described how residents had chased the attackers past the Secureco patrol vehicle that is parked permanently at Block O.

“As they ran they turned  they were only metres from the guard in the vehicle – and fired backwards at the people chasing them. Then they ran into Block O. The guard just sat there, he did nothing to stop them.”

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The woman survived but her unborn child had to be aborted.

The Block 57 Secureco METSU employee about whom residents also raised flags, was Bongani Mbhele. The police, in a 10 January 2018 media statement, reported: “He is well-known to be armed and very dangerous.”

Mbhele was ‘well-known’ by the community as far back as 2014, before the city contracted Secureco METSU to guard Glebelands, and long before it became fashionable for the SAPS to arrest perpetrators of the hostel carnage. According to media reports, Mbhele had been on Fidelity (Secureco’s holding company) staff records since at least 2011.

So the embarrassing exploits of Luna and Mbhele suggests something more than a significant security vetting, intelligence and oversight failure on the part of the municipality’s chosen private security service provider. It suggests collusion between one of the country’s biggest private security companies, the city, and a bunch of hired assassins – all seemingly linked to a certain faction of the ANC.

In December 2015, after Secureco patrol vehicles had been parked permanently an inexplicable around-the-clock, 24/7 static deployment at Blocks O and 57 for around six months community members approached the guards to request they also patrol other areas of the hostel, particularly in the vicinity of blocks that were experiencing regular attacks.

The guard reportedly replied: “If you want a vehicle to guard your block you must go to the office. These blocks asked for cars at the office.”

Residents assumed this could only mean the office of ANC ward 76 councillor, Robert Mzobe, as the municipality had closed its administrative office some months before after staff had received threats.

The community claims that Glebelands ANCYL branch chairperson, Sifiso Nokwe lives at Block O.

Nokwe was allegedly once aligned to Glebelands’ notorious ANC branch executive committee members of which the community has long accused of fuelling the hostel violence. He apparently switched to campaigning for peace in the run-up to the 2016 local government elections, only to call for the slaughter of block committee members to resume “now elections are over” during a subsequent Peace Committee meeting.

Community members suggest ANC regional leadership may have since cautioned Nokwe against (publicly at least) bringing the party into disrepute.

As Glebelands violence is rooted in widespread disenchantment with the ANC ward councilor and his reputed brutal control over local patronage networks, these allegations are extremely disturbing, suggesting a lack of political independence in the manner in which Secureco operates. In the meantime, Secureco METSU’s patrol vehicles remain steadfast at Block O.

Tales of collusion between guards and hitmen and a lack of response to incidents have been rife since the company’s contract at Glebelands began, yet despite the arrest of its staff members and others currently sought by police for murder, the municipality has held to its line that, “security measures implemented at Glebelands have been very successful in reducing the violence.”

The facts, however, do not support this.

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According to the author’s records, since Secureco first began guarding duties at Glebelands in 2015, 45 violent incidents have taken place in the immediate vicinity of its static deployments at Blocks O and 57, of which 21 were fatal. The number of dead annually at the hostel has grown from 21 in 2014 (before Secureco arrived at Glebelands) to 32 in 2017, showing a sharp spike in killings immediately after Secureco’s deployment. Non-fatal incidents reported near Blocks O and 57 have also increased, from 6 by the end of 2015, to 13 by the end of last year.

While the number of non-fatal incidents – mostly forced evictions – has dropped dramatically since 2014, this cannot be attributed to improved safety at the hostel, but the fact that most of those previously targeted had already been evicted. The only significant drop in violence at Glebelands occurred just before the 2016 local government elections when police units from outside KZN were deployed at the hostel and Glebelands government-led peace process was underway.

Infographic: A comparative figure of incidents that took place at Glebelands from 2014 to 2017 in relation to costly security measures rolled out by the eThekwini Municipality.

While not all murders took place at the hostel, hitmen embedded at Glebelands made little effort to conceal their trade. Presumably any private security company worth its salt – particularly one with the intelligence capabilities professed by Secureco – should have proved invaluable to the police. But this appears not to be the case as SAPS members have refuted claims by the municipality that Secureco provides them with incident reports or any form of support whatsoever.

Infographic: Some of the fatal and non-fatal incidents that have occurred in the immediate vicinity of Blocks O, 57 and Secureco METSU’s patrol vehicles since the company began guarding Glebelands.

During a press conference held at Glebelands in September 2017, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula called for a nationwide audit of the private security industry and declared that, “These companies pose a danger to society and their strong regulation is required.” He threatened that those that were found to be non-compliant would lose their operating licenses.

Indeed, from a national security perspective, particularly in terms of what has gone down at Glebelands, Secureco METSU’s website makes further alarming reading.

“Secureco is proud to be in possession of the prestigious ISO 9001/2008 quality management system… [and is one of the few security providers] … accredited by the SANDF as National Key Point provider.” It then goes on to list operational capabilities befitting a small army – a copious armoury, its own radio frequency and even a “Sagasen – an armoured tank.”

By the time of going to publication, the eThekwini City Manager, Sipho Nzuza had not responded to questions about Secureco METSU’s performance at Glebelands or why it was “satisfied” with a company whose employees had “so far” allegedly increased the number of dead.

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