Durban – Two men were murdered at uMlazi’s notorious Glebelands Hostel on Sunday night, just hours before the start of the trial of eight men accused of running a criminal enterprise at the hostel that included hits for hire.
Police spokesperson for KwaZulu-Natal, colonel Thembeka Mbele, said the men were killed at 9 pm.
“Two victims aged 29 and 41 were at Glebelands Hostel, uMlazi when unknown suspects opened fire, fatally wounding them. They sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the body and head. Charges of murder were opened at Umlazi Police Station for investigation,” said Mbele.
The so-called Glebelands eight were set to appear in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday for the start of what is expected to be a protracted trial.
However, it remains unclear who will be representing former police detective Bhekukwazi Mdweshu, Eugene Wonderboy Hlophe (45) and Ncomekile Matlale Ntshangase (34).
Mdweshu is accused number one and the alleged leader of the syndicate.
The three men had applied for the services of well-known Durban advocate Jimmy Howse SC last year, which led to the postponement until January. But Howse told African News Agency (ANA) on Sunday that he was “not doing the matter”.
Howse represented the three during their failed bail bids in 2018.
The remaining accused are Khayelihle Mbuthuma (28); Vukani Manenze Mcobothi (30); Mbuyiselwa Mkhize (29); Mondli Talente Mthethwa (29) and Bongani Mbhele (33). They are expected to be represented by Legal Aid South Africa.
Accused number two, Mbuthuma, was found guilty of a murder committed at Glebelands in 2017, which falls outside of the timeframe that the eight are being charged with.
Mbuthuma was sentenced to life in prison in April 2018 for that killing. The court heard during sentencing arguments that Mbuthuma put the number of killings at the hostel that he was aware of at 180, although no timeframe was offered.
In May 2018, accused seven, Mthethwa, was sentenced to five years for a murder committed in Umlazi.
Mdweshu faces one count of racketeering for being the alleged leader of the murderous cabal and one count of extortion. All of the accused are charged with being part of a racketeering enterprise for crimes that took place at the hostel between August 2014 and March 2016.
The remaining counts are predicate offences and include nine counts of murder, seven of attempted murder and possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.
Mdweshu allegedly ran the Glebelands syndicate along with since deceased Bonga Hlophe, the leader of the “Hlope gang”, whom the rival “Mthembu gang” assassinated in 2015.
Judge Nkosinathi Chili will preside over the trial.
Veteran senior advocate Dorian Paver will lead evidence for the state. While arguing against bail for the accused in April last year, Paver told the court that he had been placed under 24-hour protection following the discovery of a hit being planned on his life.
The public protector report into the hostel lists 32 cases of murder and 47 cases of attempted murder that were reported at Glebelands between 1 May 2014 and 18 January 2016. Although dozens more have occurred since then, they fall outside the scope of the trial.