NEWS | DURBAN 

Gang extorts money from Glebelands residents for murder accused

“We’re already anticipating a death. There’s been threats and signs.”

Photo of a large red brick building
Glebelands Hostel Complex in Umlazi, eThekwini. Photo: Nomfundo Xolo
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“When they start demanding money, you know someone is going to die.” This was said by a resident of Glebelands hostel complex, who has been living there for 36 years.

A group of men have been intimidating the hostel’s residents into paying them money. The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the men wanted R50.

Another resident from F-section at the hostel, Sinegugu Mtaka, said that they were told that the money was for bail for Mawethu Maquthu, a man who was arrested during a raid on the hostel by police on 15 June.

Maquthu is accused of injuring the son of ward 79 councillor Nsindiso Nyawose and killing Msizi Makhoba during a shooting incident at Block O of the hostel on 3 June.

“We’re already anticipating a death. There’s been threats and signs,” said another resident, Bhekani Shabalala. Shabalala said he had not yet paid the R50 the men demanded from him. He came to the hostel 23 years ago to work a nearby factory.

He said the failure of the police to protect the residents “demonstrates the power these men have”. He said: “They are untouchable and can get you killed without even a trial in court – walking away free”.

Glebelands is home to as many as 20,000 people in Durban’s biggest township, Umlazi. Many of the residents come from the Eastern Cape. The complex has a red-bricked hostel that houses mostly men. Older blocks, built during apartheid, have rooms with four beds and share kitchen and bathroom facilities. Newer blocks accommodate families with children.

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said that Maquthu was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted murder, one of murder, theft of a motor vehicle, and being in possession of an unlicensed firearm with 44 rounds of ammunition.

Spokesperson for community safety and liaison for the province, Kwanele Ncalane, said, “We have heard that there are some people who have been threatening residents in the hostel. These are people who support Mawethu Maquthu and want him out of jail. Police are on guard and will respond to any threats.”

The former public protector, Thuli Madonsela, released a long-awaited report on Glebelands in October 2016 titled Stop the Carnage. The report criticised the police and the eThekwini Municipality for failing to fight, prevent and investigate crime in the area. It also criticised the Department of Social Development for failing to assist victims of forced evictions and violence.

Her report describes a desperate situation with Glebelands’ residents terrorised in power struggles between various factions. The social dynamics are complicated and have a long history. The hostel has become infamous for murders, extortion and illegal evictions.

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