Glebelands’ murder witness told: “You will not see court.”

21 April 2015

Kwanele* was one of the three men ambushed at Block 49 on 15 February this year. A few minutes before the attack, witnesses reported a bakkie had arrived at the block to collect a group of men. It seems the same bakkie disgorged the men – now armed – behind Block 49. These men then reportedly shot at Kwanele and his two friends as they were about to return home. The driver of the bakkie was reportedly a notorious Glebelands Block 52 Hostel thug, implicated in most of the violence since March 2014. Fikile Siyephu was shot dead during the attack.

When Kwanele reported the incident to the police, the investigating officer informed him he should omit the information relating to the role of the bakkie driver in this hit. It is unlawful for an officer to direct a witness as to what information can, or cannot be included in a statement to the police. Interestingly this same investigating officer was allegedly implicated in the torture and unlawful detention of a Glebelands woman in October last year. She was too traumatized and terrified to open a case.

How often do Umlazi SAPS officers ‘censor’ witnesses’ statements? After at least 25 hits, is this why no one has been convicted of murder? Is this why the criminals still walk free, despite surviving witnesses often having provided the names of their attackers to the police? Is this perhaps why the Provincial Commissioner reported that the community is “reluctant to work with the police”?

Much is known about this thug who is believed to be linked to numerous other serious crimes such as truckjacking and is said to be in possession of police or defence force issue firearms (R5s, 9mm guns and official issue ammunition have been mentioned). He is 28 years old, originates from the KwaDlangezwe Reserve near Umkomaas and is said to have cultivated extensive criminal networks at KwaMashu and Jacobs Hostels before arriving at Glebelands in early 2014. He is also alleged to carry a fake police ID, to drive many different cars, and is said to make a large incoming from extorting R50 protection money from each of the residents of the nine blocks under his control after each hit. His best friend is believed to be a plainclothes detective stationed at Durban Central SAPS who is also a Glebelands resident (name and details of where he lives are known). There is speculation about whether the thug’s access to security issue arms is connected with this friendship. He is also believed to have recruited hit squads from Mandeni and Magabheni (the blocks in which they are living are known). This information is common knowledge among many hostel residents yet the individuals repeatedly implicated in turning Glebelands into a warzone appear to consistently escape police detection.

Kwanele, a former block chairman, claimed he was illegally evicted from his room by the abovementioned thugs in May 2014. After the murder of Siyephu, Kwanele received tipoffs that he would be killed at his place of employment. He has been too fearful to attend work and has for the past two months been without an income. Kwanele is now dependent on handouts from friends while his wife and seven children struggle to feed themselves. Courageously, Kwanele positively identified four of the gunmen in a recent identity parade.

Kwanele visited his rural family after the assassination of another former Glebelands block chairman, Thulani Kathi, over the Easter weekend. On the night of 11 April, Kwanele’s brother was startled when strangers’ faces appeared at the windows of their homestead. “We just want Kwanele,” they said. One man held a drawn gun behind his back. The attackers fled when Kwanele’s brother confronted them. Co-incidentally the thug’s mysterious policeman friend is said to originate from the town nearest to Kwanele’s home.

A few days later Kwanele’s wife received a late night call. A sinister voice told her, “Kwanele may have survived the attack on Fikile (Siyephu) but he will not survive again.” She now lives in terror.

Within days of returning to Glebelands, Kwanele was alerted to an assassination plot to prevent him testifying in the trial of Siyephu’s killers. He has been warned, “you will not see court.”

And Kwanele is not the only one under immediate threat. Mandla*, also formerly associated with block committee structures was shot twice during an attempted hit in August last year. Although he identified his attacker to the police, he has yet to receive a case number. It appears the case never went to court. He sees his attacker regularly.

On his way to work last week, Mandla was ‘pointed out’ to suspected hit squad members who then followed him. He fled home and was too fearful to go to work. This is not the first time he has been menaced in this way. Mandla also has a family to support.

Many residents have reported questionable ‘justice’ meted out by the Umlazi SAPS. It would seem colleagues of the alleged Block 52 thug frequently obtain bail within hours of arrest, despite having been charged with murder or other serious and violent crimes. However those associated with former block committee members, apparently arrested overwhelmingly on fabricated charges, are often denied bail for weeks at a time. They have also reported being assaulted or tortured in custody, or their bail terms have stipulated they leave Glebelands – their only homes.

The hostel community – especially those members associated with the now disbanded block committees – is again living in permanent fear, their lives held to ransom by thugs against whom the police consistently refuse to act.. Mandla, and even more so, Kwanele, are under immediate threat of assassination. This unbearable situation is impacting on their quality of life, their ability to earn an income and support their families.

The Constitution requires the SAPS to prevent crime A great deal of information has been provided to the police in statements taken from victims and witnesses after incidents, so the police have no excuse whatsoever for not stopping the thugs’ reign of terror, and taking all possible steps to protect Kwanele, Mandla and other vulnerable residents. IF they fail in this duty, SAPS management, and the politicians to whom it reports, will be held publicly accountable for any further loss of life.

*Kwanele and Mandla’s real names have been withheld to protect their identity. Formal complaints have been lodged with the Provincial SAPS Commissioner and Cluster Commander. As a matter of urgency, the Office of the Public Protector and South African Human Rights Commission have been requested to investigate human rights abuses and other hostel-related issues, while organizations such as Amnesty International, the Right2Know Campaign and defenders of human rights have been notified of this untenable situation. Kindly refer to the attached orientation map.


Mary de Haas (KZN Monitor): 0832270485 /
Vanessa Burger (Community Activist): 0828477766 /


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