Late last year, seven of Glebelands most notorious ‘hitmen’ – including the hostel’s rogue cop – were arrested and charged with 19 counts of murder, attempted murder, racketeering, extortion and possession of a prohibited firearm and ammunition. Elitsha has been tracking the ‘Glebelands 7’ progress through the criminal justice system. This is Part 2.
Tshepo Hlambelo, a former Glebelands resident who claimed he was tortured by POP Unit members of the SAPS in 2014 after he was violently evicted from his hostel room by thugs and hitmen, eventually fled to his home in the rural areas near Bizana after he continued receiving death threats. He went missing on 14 Dec 2017.
In December 2017 Glebelands rogue cop, the detective from Durban Central SAPS, Sgt Bhekukwazi Mdweshu and 6 other alleged hitmen were arrested and charged with 19 counts of murder, attempted murder, possession of prohibited firearms and ammunition as well us under the Riotous Assemblies Act for conspiring to eliminate Glebelands residents. They have become known as the Glebelands 7. Two of the 7 are also charged with other Glebelands murder cases, of which one was recently sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a Glebelands grandmother in 2017. Bail applications for the remaining 5 are ongoing.
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.
The criminal justice system is quick to blame its abysmal conviction rate of Glebelands suspects on reluctant witnesses. While this is indeed a contributing factor – and for good reason – the whole story is not being told.
It’s over 3 months since the storm that left a trail of destruction in KZN, but there has been no help from government for residents of Glebelands Hostel in Umlazi.
Since the killings began in March 2014, 100 people have died in Glebelands Hostel-related violence – either violently from hitmen’s bullets, or more slowly, from stress-induced illnesses caused by the fear of living daily in the shadow of death. With a death toll now reaching almost four times the number of people killed at Marikana – which evoked worldwide outrage, political humiliation, commissions of inquiry and support groups – it is instructive to reflect on the state and society’s response to Glebelands’ ongoing slaughter.
On Friday 15 September the Durban Magistrate’s Court sentenced Mxoleleni Hopeson Bhani to life imprisonment for the murder of Sipho Ndovela, killed on 18 May 2015 at the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court, and 12 years for the attempted murder of another Glebelands resident. But there were others – police members – also implicated in Ndovela’s murder. Bhani did not act alone. Glebelands will never be free of violence and fear unless officers colluding with killers are brought to book. The late Sipho Ndovela was the former Block 56 chairperson. He ran a small tuckshop and provided security at a nearby taxi rank.
Researcher and writer Vanessa Burger, who testified at the Moerane Commission on the violence wracking Glebelands hostel, writes that the hitman who shot Sindiso Magaqa in July can be traced to Glebelands.
The women of Glebelands bear the brunt of violence and they are left to fend for themselves after their husbands are killed. To date 93 people have lost their lives to Glebelands hitmen.
Independent Community Activist for Human Rights & Social Justice and Elitsha contributor, Vannessa Burger was one of the witnesses of the ongoing Moerane Commission, which investigates underlying causes of political killings in KZN, wrote an opinion piece for us. The Commission will sit again in August and political parties are expected to testify.