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Call for investment of more resources for detective services, NPA after another mass shooting at Glebelands Hostel

Several police vehicles parked outside Glebelands Hostel

Glebelands Hostel. File Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/ANA

Published Jun 5, 2023


Durban - Eight people were killed by gunmen at Glebelands Hostel in uMlazi on Saturday morning.

Experts said that crime levels had reached exponential levels in KwaZulu-Natal, as underlined by the crime stats released last week.

The murder rate in South Africa increased by 3.4% between January and March 2023, compared to the same period last year, while KZN had the highest figures of multiple murders.

Glebelands Hostel has also been notorious for murders. Between March 2014 and January 2019, more than 120 people died as a result of violence allegedly perpetrated by hitmen.

KZN police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker said yesterday that detectives from the provincial task team had taken over the investigation. Seven men died at the scene.

“According to police in uMlazi, at 2.45 on Saturday morning, men aged between 20 and 40 years old were consuming alcohol in a room at Block 57 at the Glebelands Hostel when gunmen opened fire on them before fleeing the scene. So far, they have established that there were 12 people in total in the room where the shooting occurred. Two of the occupants were unharmed while three were injured. “This included the owner of the room, who jumped through the window of the second-floor room. His injuries were as a result of the fall. Sadly, one of the injured has passed away in hospital, bringing the death toll to eight. Police are investigating eight counts of murder and four of attempted murder. The motive still remains unknown.”

Chad Thomas, an organised and financial crime investigator, said that criminality had increased exponentially.

“Incidents such as the Glebelands Hostel killings are now a common-place occurrence. The reasons for the increase in crime are complex but one of the main factors is the fact that criminals believe that they will not be held accountable for their actions. This is as a result of a ‘no-consequence’ attitude that criminals have due to a severely constrained criminal justice system.”

Thomas added that the state had to invest more resources into the investigation and prosecution of crime.

“SAPS detective services, the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority require more funding to ensure that criminals are apprehended through thorough investigations and prosecutorial guided investigations. This can only be achieved through more funding.”

Jabulani Maphumulo, ward 76 councillor in uMlazi, said: “The thing with Glebelands Hostel is that we have random shootings and then it stops for a while, we don’t know what’s the real cause.”

Sipho Hlomuka, KwaZulu-Natal MEC: Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, said: “The notorious Glebelands Hostel is once again dominating the headlines for wrong reasons. This is despite serious work that has been done in stabilising this hostel, including arrests and sentencing of kingpins in the crimes that have engulfed the area.”

Hlomuka added that this incident happened at a time when there is a sharp focus on police stations such as uMlazi following the release of crime statistics.

“The police station is featured among top leading crime stations in murder cases. The Department of Community Safety and Liaison has activated all crime-fighting structures to work with the police in eliminating illegal firearms and arrest of known criminals.”

Blessed Gwala, IFP KZN provincial spokesperson for Community Safety and Liaison, said: “This is proof that KwaZulu-Natal is a war zone. Who is the ‘kingpin’ responsible for the supply of deadly weapons to criminals in KZN? Further, the question of the effectiveness of the Crime Intelligence Unit has come under the spotlight.”

MASS killings, like the murder of eight people at the notorious Glebelands Hostel in Durban, should never become the norm.

Police reported that the men were shot on Saturday morning; seven were declared dead at the scene, while an eighth person died in hospital.

Glebelands is notorious. Between 2014 and 2019, more than 120 people died as a result of violence allegedly at the hands of hitmen. Last year, nearly 30 people died in tavern shootings around the country.

In July, 16 people were killed at Nomzamo tavern in Orlando East, with Police Minister Bheki Cele saying more than 137 cartridges were recovered from the scene of the shooting, and that an AK47 had been used.

These mass shootings have again raised questions about the effectiveness of the Crime Intelligence Unit and its ability to prevent such atrocities.

The July unrest that took place in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in 2021 has exposed the unit’s inability to gather intelligence.

Certainly, there are highly competent individuals who are part of this unit, but questions have been raised about political interference and how this has hamstrung them in their ability to do their jobs.

The expectation is that the Crime Intelligence Unit should be on the ground, using their network of informants, to gather information before these mass killings take place. Typically, the police have been reactive to such killings, and hitmen operate with impunity, resulting in regular attacks.

Arresting those who are planning these crimes is integral to Crime Intelligence’s work, but very often arrests only take place after these horrific crimes, if at all.

The best way to deal with crime and prevent more mass shootings is through crime intelligence, and Cele has not acknowledged the deficiencies that exist in these units, or taken sufficient steps to address their failings.

The country’s crime fighting institutions have been eroded over time through interference, incompetence and apathy, and reactionary rhetoric has done little to stem the violence or to prevent mass shootings in different parts of the country.

Allowing the status quo to remain unchanged will only embolden organised crime elements, while corruption and public violence will continue to increase.