Major General Dumezweni Chiliza at the Moerane Commission of Inquiry, 20 February, 2018.
DURBAN - Senior police official, Major General Dumezweni Chiliza, on Tuesday told the Moerane Commission of Inquiry sitting in Durban that there had been a dramatic increase in gun related murders at uMlazi’s Glebelands Hostel since 2014 as warring factions swapped knives for firearms.
Chiliza did not outright dismiss allegations made by several previous witnesses that many of the killings at the hostel were politically motivated. However, on more than one occasion he said that at that moment he was not in possession of figures that could be referenced to determine which killings may have been politically motivated.
Sitting beside Chiliza on the witness panel were acting KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner major general Bhekinkosi Langa, brigadier Bongani Maqashalala, brigadier Tebogo Mbhele, major general Hendrick Chauke and major general Pitso Ramatsoel.
In often disjointed testimony, Chiliza said that before March 2014, murders committed at the crime-riddled complex had been decreasing, but with the introduction of what he called the “Hlope group”, killings increased, with firearms being the murder weapon of choice.
“The trend for murder and attempted murder at Glebelands was subsiding between April 2010 and March 2014,” Chiliza told commissioners.
“With the emergence of the Hlope group, the violence escalated.”
Before the Hlope group appeared on the scene, according to Chiliza, the dominant faction at the hostel had been “the Mthembu group”. During the period of dominance by the Mthembu group, most of the murders recorded at the hostel were stabbings, he said.
Both factions were African National Congress supporters and both were fighting for control of the hostel because it was “lucrative” to sell bed space.
“Between 1 October 2012 and 31 March 2013, there were five murders at Glebelands. In four of the five cases, the victims were stabbed. Between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014 there were three murders at Glebelands,” said Chiliza.
But, he said, with the emergence of the Hlope group between 2013 and 2014, the murder rate for March 2014 to March 2015 rose to 18 murders, with 16 of those being shootings and two stabbings.
“Between 1 February 2015 and 31 March 2016, 17 murders were committed at Glebelands; 15 of these were shootings, one was a stabbing and a person died when a house was petrol bombed,” he said.
Chiliza said that both factions had accused the police of colluding with each other.
It was the Mthembu group, he said, that wanted Glebelands’ long-term councillor, Robert Mzobe, fired from his position.
Previous witnesses testified that Mzobe was a “warlord” involved in illegal evictions who was known to pocket some of the money made on bed allocations. Mzobe is also alleged to have a say in who is awarded tenders for maintenance and construction work that takes place at the massive complex.
But Chiliza told commissioners that he had seen no evidence of this. Instead, he said, Mzobe was genuinely worried about the violence at the hostel and wanted it eliminated.
The police will continue their testimony on Wednesday.