Durban – The Moerane Commission investigating political killings in KwaZulu-Natal heard on Monday that Durban south’s notorious Glebelands Hostel was a haven for hitmen who operated throughout the province.
Testifying upon resumption of the commission after a month’s recess, human rights activist Vanessa Burger said that according to her research, hitmen based at the hostel were used throughout KwaZulu-Natal as killers for hire.
“There are 89 killings in the province that can be traced back to hit men based at Glebelands hostel,” from 2014 to date, she said. “Anyone who wants someone taken out, Glebelands is the place to go,” she said.
Burger, a graphic designer by trade, is a well-known figure at KwaZulu-Natal hostels, where she has been an activist for justice for years. She also has several friends within the hostel communities.
Her testimony included a map she had designed that plotted murders in the province thought to have been connected to Glebeland’s hitmen, murders that were “probably as a result of Glebelands hit men” and those socio-economically affected as a result of the killings.
Evidence leader for the commission, advocate Bheki Manyathi, was questioning Burger. He said that four witnesses that had testified before the commission at its first sitting agreed that hit men based at Glebelands were used throughout the province.
Manyathi said that those witnesses testified that the killings in the province and Glebelands were a result of “politics, power, financial enrichment, criminality (warlords/hitmen) and failures on the parts of the municipality, SAPS and Durban metro police”.
Burger agreed, and then traced a harrowing picture of a patronage network that allegedly included politicians, prosecutors and police.
Glebelands Hostel is a sprawling complex in uMlazi that consists of 71 blocks and about 22,000 residents. Burger said that while the newer blocks were family units, the medium and older blocks housed up to 10 people per room, “at least”. The rooms are designed to accommodate four people.
Besides hitmen, the hostel is known to be a haven for criminals who extort money from residents and taxi owners. Burger says that money obtained during these “collections” enabled them to buy weapons, including police rifles, which were used in politically linked violence and other criminal acts.