The ANC’s forked tongue over Glebelands

ward 76 councilor, Robert Mzobe is allegedly assigned four 24-hour bodyguards and two bulletproof cars (at a cost of R230 000 per month according to 2014 media reports) and a private security company on call. Photo by Vanessa Burger

Political killings continue unabated in KZN and more especially in Glebelands Hostels in Umlazi. Vanessa Burger asks all the open questions about the violence, all evidence and circumstances of which point to a particularly toxic trajectory of the ANC.

glebelands hostel, Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

THE DEEPLY COMPROMISED KZN ANC leadership are increasingly finding themselves with their backs to the wall as more and more members publicly reveal the evil within their blood soaked ranks. Although plenty of noise has been made about the motives for killing councilors – conflict over power, position and resources – the ANC, both past and present, continues to take great pains to conceal its hand behind the hostel slaughter.

“We have to establish whether it’s still the continuation of the old fight of the old war based on the same old reasons because at times we assume it’s the continuation of the old war only to discover that the circumstances are totally different,” KZN Premier Willies Mchunu’s statement after the killing of yet another Glebelands Hostel resident on 23 August 2017.

During the party’s official representation to the Moerane Commission into political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, ANC provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala recently claimed: “The Glebelands Hostel killings have been a sore point,” and that “the community must be central to finding the lasting solution to the violence.”

He went on to parade the “interventions” the ANC has allegedly “called for” at Glebelands – the almost entirely ineffectual ‘security measures’ that have assured a steady stream of lucrative contracts to politically connected buddies at the expensive of hostel dwellers’ lives. It is easy, but time-consuming, dispelling hot air.

All ANC leaders have persistently advanced the ‘warring factions’ theory for the ongoing violence, echoes of the apartheid regime’s ‘black on black violence’, the smokescreen that hid white rightwing efforts to destabilize the transition to democracy. Zikalala has of course brought this charade full circle by invoking a ‘third force’, intent on benefiting somehow from the demise of what is left of the ANC and, he hinted darkly, making Durban the possible ‘port of entry’. Zikalala’s theory may have certain merit, albeit not in the way he would have us believe.

So what are some of the ANC’s other “interventions” at Glebelands – the ones not so loudly proclaimed? What questions should be asked of Zikalala, Mchunu (Senzo and Willies – even John), Bheki Ntshangase, Zandile Gumede, Nigel Gumede, Michael Sutcliffe and a host of others who maintain the condescending pretense of bemused confusion at “the people killing each other?”

The beginning

What happened to the RDP-homes-or-hostel-rooms promise made by the late Housing MEC, Dumisani Makhaya to Glebelands residents way back in 1999? It seems a few got houses but did any hostel dweller ever receive ownership of the rooms they chose to retain as reparation offered by the new dispensation to right apartheid’s wrongs?

And after hostel administration was later transferred from the province to the eThekwini Municipality, who sought to charge market-related rental for newly constructed social housing units just as unemployment was beginning to bite? And why, in the 23 years after the horror of apartheid, were so few built when the CRUs (Community Residential Units as they were euphemistically renamed) had year-on-year been allocated ever-increasingly vast budgets? What happened between the balance on paper and its translation into decent housing? And who chose to perpetuate this apartheid-era accommodation concept anyway?

Why, after construction on Phase 1 and 2 of the Glebelands family units began in 2002, and was completed in 2006, were the units not allocated for another 3 years, when the old blocks were bursting at the seams? And who were the people eventually allocated the Phase 1, 2 and much later, 3, units? Where did they come from? How much did they pay for their rooms and who did they pay? Who decided who could stay and why?

Who called a meeting in 2008 and suggested councilors with hostels in their wards register their own construction, security and cleaning companies to service these vast housing complexes and take full advantage of the opportunities offered by equally vast CRU budgets? Who owns Majola Cleaning Services at Glebelands?

What clicked over around 2009 that turned straight plunder into a something more lethal?

Who took over the Glebelands ANC branch and later the ward, more by political default than democratic free choice?

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And post-Polokwane, who led a march on the breakaway COPE faction, centred at the time around Block R – the group that comprised mostly of community leaders – the block committee structures – many of whom incidentally had Eastern Cape origins? Who incited ethnic and political intolerance to drive a wedge of hatred between community members that had been reunited since the ANC/IFP political conflict ended in 1999? How many people died in that conflict, and why have so many of those targeted then – in 2009 – been targeted again from 2014 onwards? What or who was the common denominator?

What made community structures – again many of which were block committee leaders – in this historically ANC-aligned stronghold, pass a vote of no confidence in the ANC branch executive committee in 2013 and demand ward 76 councilor, Robert Mzobe, stand down?

And why, after the community – now bolstered by thousands from the local branch of the SACP, aggrieved at having been used and abused in the 2009 proxy war, and supplemented by residents of surrounding informal settlements – escalated their concerns regarding abysmal service delivery, nepotism, corruption and the appalling arrogance of their councilor through the various political structures, did the ANC leadership not listen to the people? Why, after nearly 4 years of making the same noises, were they forced to resort to extreme measures (by burning down the councilor’s office at Glebelands) to make themselves heard?

And when they were indeed heard, why was the subject of their grievances rewarded with the most expensive security detail of any government official of that level in the country? Why were the community’s deputations, appeals and petitions for the removal of their ward councilor repeatedly ignored and rebuffed by provincial party structures? Why were they instead accused of “bringing the ANC into disrepute” and threatened they “would be dealt with” by regional ANC leaders when the community was merely exercising its democratic right?

Is there any basis to the question raised at a large community meeting in early 2014 attended by provincial party leadership, municipal officials, MECs and the former mayor, that a certain former regional ANC secretary had approached local MK veterans to liquidate these persistently troublesome community leaders (many of whom were of course, block committee members)? And after this plan allegedly failed and the MK vets and aggrieved community leaders found considerable common ground among the debris of failed service delivery, rampant corruption and arrogant political leadership, was it merely a coincidence that a warlord seemingly closely connected to the ward councilor, shortly thereafter began a reign of terror at Glebelands that continues to this day, long after the warlord’s passing into the hereafter?

Was it also mere coincidence that those leaders – many of whom of course were block committee members – were also persecuted by members from the local police station, persecution that led to the death of Zinakile Fica on 13 March 2014 when he was tubed to death by Umlazi SAPS detectives? Why has the IPID and office of the DPP taken no action against the officers named in this incident despite conclusive evidence having been provided?

Why did ANC Women’s League members accompany the warlord when he came with his thugs to assault and violently evict the first block chairperson from Glebelands? And during this incident, were Block 57 residents really advised by the warlord’s associates that they need not fear “because the police know (what we are doing), the superintendent knows, the councilor knows, even Nathi Mthethwa knows.”

When the police and former Transport Community Safety and Liaison MEC’s office facilitated 5-a-side meetings thereafter at the request of the block committees to defuse and resolve the situation, why did they sit on their hands when the warlord vowed he “cannot stop this project until the councilor says so”?

Why did these same officers fail to take action against the warlord when he and his recruits – an ever-increasing number of hitmen and taxi thugs – stage protest marches in July 2014 to demand the block committees leave Glebelands or face death? What happened to the list of names, ostensibly of people “not wanted at Glebelands” attached to the memorandum that was handed over at the time to the eThekwini Municipality officials, Umlazi SAPS Cluster Commander’s representative and a regional ANC deployee? How many of those named on that list are still alive today?

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And why has the IPID, provincial and even national SAPS structures consistently failed to investigate a rogue police officer after serious allegations have been made repeatedly of his involvement in a number of serious criminal activities at Glebelands?

Why did the eThekwini Municipality stand by when waves of violent evictions were carried out, leaving hundreds of legitimate hostel residents, including many women and children, destitute, traumatised and homeless? Why do ANC leaders persistently seek to portray the violence as “warring factions” when – without exception – all those evicted were believed to have been associated – however remotely – with the block committee structures and were forced from blocks under the control of the late warlord? How can the numbers justify this theory when 54 of the 81 Glebelands residents killed since 2014 were members of, or closely connected to, the block committees (a further 14 people who were not hostel residents have been killed elsewhere)?

Secureco METSU was contracted by the eThekwini Municipality in 2015 to guard Block O and 57 in Glebelands. Photo by Vanessa Burger

If so-called ‘bed selling’ (a corrupt practice common across all hostels which flourishes in the absence of proper hostel administration, where certain block leaders or committees extort ‘rent’ from residents or sell space to those desperate for accommodation) was really the root cause of the violence at Glebelands, why are the bodies not piling up in their hundreds at other hostels? And why do hostel administration and police not work with trusted community leaders to end this practice?

Why are police members who prove effective at Glebelands either starved of resources and official support, or transferred elsewhere? Why, in a supposedly constitutional democracy, where the right to freedom of movement and association is enshrined in our Constitution, have no-go zones been allowed to spread within the hostel and its surrounds, through which anyone remotely associated with the block committees risks death if they traverse?

Why did local chapters of the SAHRC and office of the Public Protector repeatedly ignore pleas from various civil society groups and individuals to investigate the reason for the carnage?

What were the true circumstances surrounding Robert Mzobe’s re-nomination for a third term in early 2016? How many genuine card-carrying ANC members of Ward 76 really supported this process and how many were forced to attend under threat of eviction or worse by gun wielding thugs and given blank pieces of paper to serve as instant membership cards?

And when the provincial government initiated the much-proclaimed Peace Process in 2016, why was the ANC political deployee, a security and surveillance specialist rumoured to have old NIA connections, selected to facilitate the process? And why was everyone so surprised when the peace initiative petered out directly after local government elections in August 2016? During this process, why were the hardened killers, identified multiple times to police management and the peace facilitator, some of whom even form part of the Peace Committee, not separated from those who were genuinely committed to reform, and arrested and sentenced for the suffering they had wrought? Why was the rule of law suspended?

So yes, our country and particularly KZN has a terribly violent history. Yes too, there are probably many former apartheid operators gleefully rubbing their hands at the current carnage. But please, do not feign surprise, shock, horror or innocent confusion when hitmen previously engaged to remove with impunity political dissidents among the party’s rank and file, are also hired to eliminate councilors and political activists in ever increasing numbers. Yes indeed this is an ANC problem, inherited from the previous oppressors and perfected by the current rotten regime.

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