Fright­en­ing pic­ture painted of Gle­be­lands

Hos­tel sub­cul­ture run by thugs and ex­tor­tion­ists de­scribed

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS -

THE MO­ER­ANE Com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­lit­i­cal killings in KwaZulu-Natal heard yes­ter­day that Dur­ban south’s no­to­ri­ous Gle­be­lands hos­tel was a haven for hit­men who op­er­ated through­out the prov­ince.

Tes­ti­fy­ing upon re­sump­tion of the com­mis­sion af­ter a month’s re­cess, hu­man rights ac­tivist Vanessa Burger said that ac­cord­ing to her re­search, hit­men based at the hos­tel were used through­out KwaZu­luNatal as killers for hire.

“There are 89 killings in the prov­ince that can be traced back to hit­men based at Gle­be­lands hos­tel” from 2014 till now, she said.

“Any­one who wants some­one taken out, Gle­be­lands is the place to go,” she said.

Burger, a graphic de­signer by trade, is a well-known fig­ure at KwaZulu-Natal hos­tels, where she has been an ac­tivist for jus­tice for many years.

She also has sev­eral friends within the hos­tel com­mu­ni­ties.

Her tes­ti­mony in­cluded a map she had de­signed that plot­ted mur­ders in the prov­ince thought to have been con­nected to Gle­be­lands’ hit­men, mur­ders that were “prob­a­bly as a re­sult of Gle­be­lands hit­men” and those so­cio-eco­nom­i­cally af­fected as a re­sult of the mul­ti­ple killings.

The com­mis­sion’s ev­i­dence leader, ad­vo­cate Bheki Many­athi, was ques­tion­ing Burger.

Many­athi said wit­nesses had tes­ti­fied that the killings in the prov­ince and at Gle­be­lands were a re­sult of “pol­i­tics, power, fi­nan­cial en­rich­ment, crim­i­nal­ity (war­lords/hit­men) and fail­ures on the parts of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, SAPS and Dur­ban metro po­lice”.

Burger agreed, and then traced a har­row­ing pic­ture of a pa­tron­age net­work that al­legedly in­cluded politi­cians, pros­e­cu­tors and po­lice.

Gle­be­lands hos­tel is a sprawl­ing com­plex in uM­lazi that con­sists of 71 blocks and about 22 000 res­i­dents.

Burger said that while the newer blocks were fam­ily units, the medium and older blocks housed up to 10 peo­ple per room, “at least”.

The rooms were de­signed to ac­com­mo­date four peo­ple.

Be­sides hit­men, the hos­tel is known to be a haven for crim­i­nals who ex­tort money from res­i­dents and taxi own­ers, among oth­ers.

Burger said money ob­tained dur­ing these “col­lec­tions” en­abled the thugs to buy weapons, in­clud­ing po­li­ceis­sue ri­fles, which were used in po­lit­i­cally linked vi­o­lence and other crim­i­nal acts.

“There are col­lec­tions go­ing on in the older blocks where res­i­dents are forced at gun­point and threat­ened with evic­tion if they don’t give var­i­ous amounts of money,” she said.

The go­ing rate was R50 per per­son or a min­i­mum of R200 per room a month. It was es­ti­mated that about R220 000 a month had been col­lected this way, Burger said.

“Moth­ers with chil­dren are be­ing ex­torted. The money is used to buy guns, pay for hit­men, and to bribe pros­e­cu­tors, in­ves­tiga­tive of­fi­cers and mag­is­trates,” she told the com­mis­sion.

Burger said that ac­cord­ing to her re­search, thugs con­trolled as many as 14 of Gle­be­lands’ 71 blocks, but the num­ber could be higher.

Burger said she had in­ter­viewed 25 res­i­dents who in­di­cated the av­er­age in­come per res­i­dent was R1 500 a month. Only 6% re­ceived so­cial grants.

The av­er­age length each re­spon­dent had lived at the hos­tel was 16.5 years.

“Out of the 25 peo­ple I in­ter­viewed, 21 had fam­ily mem­bers who were com­pletely re­liant on them. Seven of the re­spon­dents said po­lice had as­saulted them and 12 out of the 25 said they had been vic­tims of at­tempted mur­der. Where cases were laid, all had been ac­quit­ted or pro­vi­sion­ally with­drawn,” she said.

The com­mis­sion runs from July 17 to 21, with some tes­ti­monies ex­pected to take place be­hind closed doors.

In a state­ment re­leased on Sun­day night, Pre­mier Wil­lies Mchunu said an op­tion that was be­ing ex­plored was the com­mis­sion vis­it­ing and sit­ting at places that had re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced killings of coun­cil­lors.

“These in­clude Umz­imkhulu and Rich­mond, to name but two,” said Mchunu.

Mchunu es­tab­lished the com­mis­sion, chaired by ad­vo­cate Marumo Mo­er­ane SC, in Oc­to­ber last year to in­ves­ti­gate po­lit­i­cal killings in the prov­ince since 2011.

The hear­ings con­tinue.

Money is used to pay for hit­men and bribe pros­e­cu­tors

PIC­TURE: BON­GANI MBATHA

IN­SIDER: Vanessa Burger tes­ti­fies at the Mo­er­ane com­mis­sion into po­lit­i­cal killings at Gle­be­lands hos­tel in Dur­ban.

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