Public Protector intervenes on the plight of Glebelands Hostel, Kennedy Road informal settlement residents in Durban
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Mandosela has appealed to the South African Police Service (SAPS) to protect the Glebelands Hostel residents that came forth with information on the killings that have occurred at the residence over the last two years.
She also announced an intention to approach the eThekwini Metro, KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, National Department of Human Settlements, Eskom and the Departments of Social Development to help the residents of Glebelands Hostel and Kennedy Road informal settlement.
This follows hers and Deputy Public Protector Adv. Kevin Malunga’s visit to the hostel and informal settlement on Monday.
The visit to the hostel follows a Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) complaint that the SAPS and provincial government were not doing enough to stop the killings and resolve the crimes. More than 50 people have reportedly been killed at the hostel since early 2014.
The visit to the informal settlement was incorporated in response to complaints by residents and and media stories on complaints in which dwellers alleged poor quality interim housing at unconscionably disproportionate expense.
During their inspection in loco at the hostel, the Public Protector and Deputy heard a harrowing story of how a young woman saw her father’s bullet-riddled body laying in a pool of blood after assailants opened fire on him behind their place of residence. The visibly traumatized young woman advised that since her father was gunned down in mid November 2015, her family had not received any counseling and were battling financially.
Another resident insisted that the police were doing their work and alleged that after police arrested persons, such persons were released on bail only to come back and harass or kill witnesses. At another block, however, some of the residents alleged that some of the members of the SAPS were taking sides and possibly taking bribes. They alleged that while some people they believed to be innocent were arrested, there were those who killed with impunity. One resident cited an example of a fellow resident who was killed in his presence and the names of the killers given to police yet the police have allegedly failed to take action despite the alleged killers roaming around.
Residents said the source of the conflict was the scramble for the few available apartments at the hostel. They alleged that the conflict started with some of the residents who were part of the Hostel Committees corruptly allocating beds and rooms for bribes and using force to evict others in order to put the rooms up for sale.
“Some people flatly refused to speak to us. It was clear that they were not angry with us because they waved. They said anyone who is seen to have said something is putting their lives in danger,” said the Public Protector. “ We appeal to the police to protect those that spoke to us.”
She explained that it was not her office’s place to investigate the killings. Her role was to focus on ensuring that the police did what they ought to do. “We will not interfere with criminal investigation processes. In fact we have been asked to ensure that the processes proceed fairly and openly,” the Public Protector said.
Some residents avoided talking about the killings and focused much on their social conditions. The complained about the squalor they live in, including leaking sewage and water pipes, filthy surroundings and stinking drainages. They also complained about undignified living arrangements, where adult couples shared crammed spaces with young-to-teenaged children. They also advised that the residents were not paying rent and for services and that those that paid were punished by the group behind the refusal to pay for services. Some residents also complained that food parcels for indigent families were distributed in a discriminatory manner. They appealed for a reconciliation process that would stop the killings while the criminal justice system ran its course.
From the hostel, the Public Protector and Deputy proceeded to the informal settlement, where they also conducted an inspection in loco. Like their counterparts at the hostel, residents at the informal settlement complained about lack of privacy as adults shared tiny spaces with children. Some of the residents also complained about RDP houses in their names yet given to other people while they receive utility bills.
The Public Protector will bring her observations, together with the CLEA complaint, to the attention of the provincial security cluster at a meeting to be held at her office’s Durban offices on Tuesday. Jointly with the cluster, she will seek to map a way forward on the alleged police and government inaction on the killings and the investigation of the crimes.
The Public Protector will further engage the eThekwini Metro and the Department of Water Affairs to attend to the issue of leaking water pipes at the hostel, where gallons of the scarce resource are lost everyday at at least four blocks at the dwelling. She will further seek to enlist the services of the Social Development department to facilitate a healing process for those that have been affected by the killings. On the illegal electricity connections, she plans to approach ESKOM with some proposals.
With regard to the informal settlement, the Public Protector will investigate the procurement process that was followed ahead of the building of the structures as well as the service delivery matters reported to her by the residents.