eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede was scolded on Thursday by the offices of the public protector and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for service delivery failures at uMlazi’s notorious Glebelands Hostel.
Despite the dressing-down, representatives from both Chapter 9 institutions said Gumede was “not defensive” when told that the city had failed to implement some of the remedial action called for in a 2017 report into the grotty, dangerous complex.
SAHRC provincial commissioner Mohamed Ameermia and deputy public protector Kevin Malunga met with Gumede, city manager Sipho Nzuza and others in a closed meeting at City Hall to thrash out a “roadmap” following complaints about lack of implementation from civil society bodies and activists.
At a press briefing following the meeting, Malunga told journalists that the city was only one of the entities implicated in the report and that the intention of the meeting was not to embarrass the mayor and her team, rather, it was an opportunity to work together.
“The mayor has conceded that the remedial action had not been implemented the way it should have. We have accepted that and we have accepted her roadmap.”
In June 2017, the public protector’s investigation into Glebelands found that the city, South African Police Service (SAPS), Ipid, the human settlements and social development departments had failed hostel residents.
Included in the remedial action flagged by the public protector as not being implemented was the failure to have all 57 CCTV cameras at the complex working. Also highlighted was poor access control, poor lighting and other security measures.
The security measures are integral to the safety of hostel residents, who are subjected to high levels of crime, including murder and attempted murder.
Human rights activist Vanessa Burger described the hostel as a “haven for hitmen” when she testified before the Moerane Commission of Inquiry, which was established to investigate high levels of political killings in the province.
Eight men, all current or former Glebelands residents, are presently standing trial for allegedly being part of a syndicate that committed murder for money – political and otherwise – and extorted residents for years. The leader of the syndicate is a now former SAPS detective who lived at Glebelands.
Malunga said that their investigations had also revealed refuse removal remained a problem and that Glebelands still had “almost double the occupancy” that it could accommodate.
Occupancy estimates range between 20,000 and 22,000, although the complex was only built to accommodate around 12,000 people. The exact occupancy rate is not known.
Gumede and her executives disputed some claims made by the public protector, saying security had been improved and refuse collected.
However, the mayor also said that “implementation of the public protector’s remedial action is going to be the order of the day”, adding she would “personally spearhead the project to rehabilitate Glebelands Hostel”.
Senior councillor Mondli Mthembu would be appointed to monitor programmes at the complex and report to the mayor’s office on a monthly basis.
Gumede said communication channels would also be improved. “Quarterly [progress] reports will be forwarded to the public protector’s office,” she said.
All parties agreed that a mass meeting would be held before the end of April to report back to the Glebelands’ community and other stakeholders.
While the mayor and the Chapter 9 institutions expressed unity at the press briefing, a tweet from the public protector’s official account, presumably from inside the closed meeting, revealed the gathering was tense.
According to the tweet: “Earlier, Advocate Ameermia informed the Mayor that the two [chapter 9 institutions] reserved their rights. They could take the City to court over this but noted that would be a sad day. Going to court to show that my lawyer is better than yours is a waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said.
– African News Agency (ANA)