28 August 2019
Witnesses testifying against eight men accused of a spate of murders and other crimes at the Glebelands hostels in Umlazi, north of Durban, are due to take the stand today.
The accused, who made brief appearances in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday, face at least 22 charges, including nine murder charges, seven for attempted murder, possession of illegal firearms, and racketeering. The incidents in question took place between August 2014 and March 2016.
The men pleaded not guilty to all the charges. One of the accused, Bhekukwazi Mdweshu, who faces 19 charges, is a former detective at the Durban Central police station. The other accused are Khayelihle Mbuthuma, Vukani Mcombothi, Eugene Hlophe, Mbuyiselwa Mkhize, Ncomekile Ntshangase, Mondli Mthethwa and Bongani Mbhele.
The state is expected to call about 100 witnesses during the trial. Most of the witnesses are former residents of the hostels who have since been moved to safe houses under the state’s witness protection programme.
On Tuesday, the court’s public gallery was packed and heavily guarded by security officers. State prosecutor advocate Dorain Paver read out the charges against the eight men.
Paver told the court that Mdweshu had lead the syndicate and conspired to commit an array of crimes in the community. According to the charge sheet, Mdweshu and his co-accused collected money from at least 20,000 residents of Glebelands hostels, they allegedly bought weapons and hitmen who were believed to be involved in other murders at the hostels.
The court heard the accused called hostel residents to meetings where they were forced to make cash payments to them. During proceedings, Judge Nkosinathi Chili urged the accused to give their full attention and that they should alert their lawyers if they have any questions during the trial.
The case continues on Wednesday.