Service delivery is suspended as residents are fenced in
29 November 2015
By: Vanessa Burger
Just over a fortnight ago the MEC for Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu, washed his hands of the Glebelands violence – although his spokesperson later denied it. Now the eThekwini Municipality has shut up shop, packed its bags, and redeployed its staff elsewhere. The hostel superintendent, his deputy and workers responsible for cleaning, electricity and water services have all been withdrawn. There has been no refuse removal for over a week and underground burst water pipes threaten the foundations of several blocks.
When residents tried to report water leaks this week, they were told that municipal staff had been withdrawn due to safety concerns and that the hostel’s administrative offices would only reopen once the violence has ceased. A private security firm – at least the third active on the premises, had, for some time, protected the council offices.
Rumour has it that the superintendent, and particularly his deputy, previously enjoyed a close association with the late warlord and his thugs. Some time after the warlord’s death, it has been alleged that the electricity supply failed to one of the old blocks – home to thugs, hitmen and hijackers. Sources claim that the thugs demanded the superintendent immediately get the fault repaired. However, it was alleged that the problem required Eskom specialists – who promptly refused to enter Glebelands for fear of their lives. When hostel management conveyed this to the thugs, it was reported that they informed the superintendent that if he wanted to continue living, he must fix the electricity.
In a sequence to this, it has been alleged that municipal refuse removal staff, when servicing Block 52 just over a week ago, discovered a quantity of firearms hidden in refuse bags. These were duly removed along with the rubbish. The thugs (two of whom have been linked to a score of Glebe hits), on finding their arms cache confiscated by cleaning staff, apparently gave hostel management an ultimatum: “Give us back our guns or you will work here no more.”
Shortly thereafter, it would seem, the municipality took the decision to close its offices and withdraw its staff.
Residents ask: “What does it say about our living conditions when the landlord must leave because of the violence of some of the tenants?”
When the KZN Premier, Senzo Mchunu, disbanded all block committee structures in September last year, he announced that room allocation and other administrative duties would only be conducted by the superintendent and a special committee, selected at the discretion of the local ward committee. This special committee was never formed as a vote of no confidence in the local ANC branch executive committee had been passed in 2013, effectively rendering the BEC null and void until such time as regional intervention occurred. It never did, leaving all structures beneath, and aligned to the BEC, in limbo to this day, hence the politically aligned thugs grim determination to force residents’ mass attendance at the ANC BEC / ‘Volunteer’ meeting on 18 October when residents were ordered to support the meeting or face violent eviction. Since September 2014, the superintendent has (it has been reported, under the direction of the local ward councilor) been the sole administrator at Glebelands – a mammoth and unenviable undertaking given the volatile 22 000 plus strong community living in just under 80 blocks of varying age and state of repair.
Without block committees (who were important community elected representatives of each block and responsible for bed allocation, conflict resolution, liaison with the superintendent and maintenance inspection) and now without municipal oversight, the local ward councilor is left to reign supreme at Glebelands, protected by the most expensive bodyguards assigned to any official of similar rank in South Africa. In 2013, the media reported Robert Mzobe’s bodyguards cost ratepayers in excess of R230 000 per month. Two years down the line, at the height of the hostel violence, the cost must have grown considerably.
The eThekwini Municipality has a history of blaming hostel dwellers for wasting water, yet leaking taps remain unrepaired for months at a time while tenders are shuffled and ‘preferred service providers’ are created. This latest charade in service delivery to the poor, will no doubt be passed on to already struggling ratepayers, along with the councillor’s bodyguard bill.
This week, perimeter fence foundation construction began and trees are being cut down – according to claims from the MEC’s office apparently because “criminals use the trees for cover.” There were however, no trees at the Montclair Shopping Centre where William Mthembu and Thokozani Machi were gunned down; or at Chester Butcheries where Themba Pina met his end; or near Jeena’s Store where Thandayiphe Cwele lost his life, the list of treeless murder scenes is long. It may be presumed therefore that the Glebelands security budget needed to be shared more equally among ‘preferred service providers’.
It is now clear Glebelands residents have been abandoned to the tender mercies of the seemingly infinitely brutal and corrupt police, and the deeply unpopular ward councilor and his alleged thug buddies. Community members have condemned outright the lack of consultation that has led them to “be fenced in like cattle in a kraal waiting for slaughter.”
As residents have claimed from the beginning, “it is clear now, this is a state run killing project.”
Not once have the authorities engaged with the community to identify together what safety measures would work best to end the violence, they have merely spewed lies to the media, threatened residents at mass community meetings, and thrown increasing amounts of money at a problem they created themselves.
Longstanding members of the community remember the day when former MEC for Housing, Dumisani Makhaya, visited Glebelands and announced that hostel residents would, after the conclusion of a social audit, have a choice to either retain their rooms, or receive an RDP house. There was a satellite police station inside the hostel, next to the municipal offices, both a convenient and practical safety measure that ensured speedy response to crime. However, shortly after 2000, when the eThekwini Municipality took over hostel administration from the province, the police station was closed down, promises about RDP housing were forgotten and residents were instructed they would receive no title deeds, but would instead pay rent, charges often well beyond the means of the growing number of unemployed. And when residents initiated cooperatives and small community-driven self-upliftment projects to undertake minor hostel maintenance and repairs, they were ignored and the eThekwini Municipality gave preference to large, well-established companies, some companies that, it has been alleged, have political connections who ‘give back’ to their clients.
“The eThekwini Municipality has failed us,” is a common complaint at Glebelands. Now many are calling for the Provincial Department of Human Settlements to resume administration of the hostel. But for now, the withdrawal of municipal staff, cessation of service delivery and draconian access control and fencing appears to have all too sinister a motive. What will be the authorities next move once the hostel is enclosed? The forced removal of ‘undesirable’ sections of the community? Or to conclude the ethnic cleansing that began on 13 March 2014?
UPDATES: Yesterday during a massive Apostolic Church gathering at Glebelands Stadium, the National Intervention Unit and Metro Police Dog Unit raided Block 52. Thereafter, it seems the resident killers directed the heavily armed forces to Block R where they surrounded a small group of elderly men sharing cooldrinks at the garage. The group was told. “Move… and die.” The men were searched as a police helicopter hovered overhead. Not even a knife was found. NIU officers later admitted it seemed they had been sent on a wild goose chase.
Meanwhile, certain Umlazi SAPS officers suspected of collusion with the thugs, still hunt a Block R resident. They maintain he is wanted for questioning in connection with the recent murder of Bongani Mthembu. Although the resident has offered to meet police responsible for the investigation and provide any information that may assist the arrest of Mthembu’s killers, Provincial Task Team members in charge of the docket have confirmed they have no interest currently in this man as a suspect. Over a week ago the Umlazi Cluster Commander undertook to reign in the shady activities of these cops. It would seem word has not yet reached them as they continue to act beyond their lawful mandate. The resident fears he will be tortured, or worse, if these officers catch him alone. It would not be the first time these members have contravened international laws regarding torture.
Of police response to last Wednesday’s tipoff regarding the renegade cops alleged gun delivery to his bodyguard’s Block 42 top floor room and the latest ‘collection’ meeting at Block 48, convened reportedly, by one of the thugs witnessed at the same gun delivery, nothing further has been heard.
A few days ago Glebelands ANC Youth League leaders are believed to have sent a deputation to a local daily newspaper to complain of their so called “misrepresentation” of Block 52 residents as hitmen and other thugs. They reportedly claimed these individuals are actually serving their community and not engaged in any unlawful activities. If these preposterous suggestions are to be given credence, it must be assumed therefore that Glebelands – with 53 dead in 20 months – has the highest suicide rate in the world.