A damning Public Protector report into the killings and illegal evictions at Glebelands Hostel in uMlazi found that the eThekwini municipality and the SAPS failed in their duties to provide a safe environment for residents of the hostel.
The report, released by Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Monday, found that actions or failure to act by the two institutions in relation to the killings and living conditions at the hostel constituted improper conduct and maladministration by the institutions.
According to the report, a total of 44 people were killed at the hostel between March 2014 and June 2016 while scores of others were displaced or evicted in the violence which broke out at the hostel.
The report paints a picture of a municipality that has lost control of the hostel, a situation which gave rise to internal battles by warring factions.
One of the findings is that the municipality was not in full control of the room allocations at the hostel, and this made it possible for groups “to usurp this function for their own benefit”.
“While officials of the municipality reported that 11 380 tenants were registered on its database, the SAPS stated in its submission that the occupancy figure could have been up to 19 000, which the municipality did not deny”.
The report also slammed the municipality, saying there was evidence of “tardiness in implementing its own hostel policy” adopted in 1998.
The hostel policy of the municipality states that hostels should offer rental accommodation with a “clean, healthy and secure environment”.
“It is worth noting that some 18 years after it adopted the hostel policy, the municipality is a long way from realising its vision for hostels,” said the report.
Turning her attention on the SAPS, Mkhwebane said the police “failed to live up to the objective to prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the residents of Glebelands hostel and their property and to uphold and enforce the law as required by the constitution”.
The public protector found that the Metro police department also failed in its role to prevent crime at the hostel and this too amounted to improper conduct and maladministration.
Mkhwebane also took issue with the number of arrests and successful prosecution of cases in relation to the reported murders at the hostel.
The investigation was launched after a complaint was received in December 2015 from Professor Mcquoid Mason, the president of the Commonwealth Legal Education Association.
Mason complained of the “frequent and unabated” killings and unlawful evictions at Glebelands.
The public protector also found against the KZN Department of Social Development, saying it failed to fulfil its responsibility to the victims of the hostel violence.
Responding to the public protector, the Social Development MEC, Weziwe Thusi, asked that the department be afforded three months to implement its interventions, including offering a variety of services to victims and survivors of the violence.
The MEC stated that disciplinary action was instituted against managers believed to have failed to execute their duties in relation to Glebelands.
Some of the remedial actions recommended are that the eThekwini municipality should compile a database of all people either evicted or displaced from the hostels, and in the event that these residents cannot be returned to their rooms, alternative accommodation be provided to them.
It is recommended that the city implement access control and municipal services including refuse removal, improving of lighting and maintenance of the grounds should be extended to the hostel.
eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and acting provincial commissioner of the SAPS, Major-General Bheki Langa, were given 30 days to provide an action plan with regards to the implementation of the recommendations.
Asked for comment yesterday, eThekwini spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said the city will “study the report and respond to the public protector”.
The SAPS said: “Most of the public protector’s suggestions have been implemented.”