The killing fields

This week’s Special Assignment investigates the ongoing violence at Glebelands hostel in KZN, in Umlazi township, which has claimed the lives of 46 people over the past year.

A few arrests have been made, but there have been no convictions to date.

The recent murder of Bongani Hlope – one of the leaders in the hostel, who people feared and accused of being behind some of the violence in the area – is seen to have the potential to trigger a series of retaliatory attacks. These developments have also seen the deployment of the army and the SAPS in the area, to prevent further violence.

The history of violence in the Glebelands hostel dates back to the pre –democracy era. Even in post-apartheid South Africa, it has always been seen as the epicentre of political and factional violence in KZN. As far back as 1995, illegal firearms have been found in this hostel during police raids. Over the past few years the hostel has allegedly become a breeding ground for crime syndicates.

The on-going violence at this hostel which is home to almost 22 000 people, continues to be a challenge to the South African police despite numerous raids and operations conducted here. There are also strong alliances and divisions along political and cultural lines that add to the problem.

The killing Fields tells the story of people who live in fear of random evictions and murders, not knowing who to trust in the struggle for accommodation and survival. The alleged duplicity of some SAPS members in the area has also complicated this situation. Allegations of police assault and torture have surfaced, and are currently being investigated by police watchdog IPID. A provincial task team has also been set up to investigate these allegations.

Watch “The Killing Fields” produced by Lee McCabe. It will be broadcast on Special Assignment – aired Sundays on SABC 3 at 20:30PM. Repeated Wednesdays at 23h30.