Hostels were initially established under the apartheid system to house migrant labour conveniently close to urban industrial nodes. These vast, formerly single-sex, housing complexes became hubs of crime and violence, their communities marginalized and used as power blocs from which to wage wars – initially between the ANC and Inkatha, later, as election fodder. Side-lined from service delivery, neglected by political leaders, misunderstood by the public and often misrepresented by the media; circumstances have changed little for hostel dwellers since the so called ‘dawn of democracy.’ At Glebelands Hostel in Umlazi, south of Durban - heart of the ANC’s powerful and contested eThekwini region - conditions have got a whole lot worse.
Administrative neglect, the breakdown of law and order, spiralling state corruption, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions, a culture of impunity, the systematic erosion of constitutional rights, and an increasingly arrogant and brutal political elite, have merged into a perfect storm that has left more than 100 dead and displaced hundreds more from Glebelands. An historic stronghold of the ANC, Glebelands has become better known as ‘the place of death.’
Contextually, political killings in KZN have risen sharply since 2011 and continue unabated as deeply compromised provincial leadership and their ‘homeboy’ - former president Jacob Zuma - fight to maintain political and economic power.