Hostel killings have residents scared for their lives

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However, a fortnight ago, on June 23, the number of dead suddenly spiked after a gang of men armed with an assortment of weapons, including AK47 rifles, stormed a room at the hostel in F-section, firing indiscriminately at a group of men who were inside drinking, leaving four of them dead and five others critically injured.

The injured were immediately rushed to the nearby Thelle Mogoerane Hospital where they were admitted and treated for gunshot wounds. As soon as they recovered, within a week, the five insisted on being discharged from hospital as they preferred to be near their loved ones.

In the meantime, the chairperson of the izi-Nduna at the hostel immediately convened an urgent meeting with the local izi-Nduna and those of neighbouring hostels in the nearby Sotho section. According to iNduna Sibiya at the Nguni Hostel, it was at that meeting where it was decided to call a gathering involving representatives of the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.

The recent killings are said to have raised the concerns of the Zulu monarch as many hostel leaders have equated them to similar killings at a number of hostels around townships in KwaZulu-Natal. Many believe the frequency and scale of killings at the Nguni Hostel had already exceeded that of two of the notorious hostels in KZN.

“The situation has surpassed that of what is currently happening at the Kwa-Mashu and Umlazi hostels in KZN where assassins kill their victims with impunity,” said a shocked Sibiya.

“We are living in fear,” he added.

The Vosloorus SAPS media spokesperson, Capt Piet Rossouw, confirmed the recent attack of a number of people during the night of June 23. He also confirmed that four men were shot and killed by unidentified assailants.

The police believe the attack was planned and that the victims were unprepared for what happened.

“A team of investigators has been set up by the province and they will be focussing on finding those responsible for the shooting,” said Rossouw without delving into any details.

Approached for comment, a local induna, iNduna Ntshayi-Ntshayi, said he believes the victims in the room where the attack took place were ambushed.

“It was Friday night and the room was packed with what is believed to be taxi drivers who had just finished work for the day,” explained Ntshayi-Ntshayi.

Rossouw, Ntshayi-Ntshayi and Sibiya confirmed that the attack was unprovoked and pointed out that there had been no signs of skirmishes that evening prior to the shootings. While the police are keeping quiet about the possible reasons behind the June 23 attack, sources within the hostel believe the killings could have been linked to the ongoing taxi violence between rival taxi associations over routes.

Confirming the sporadic killings inside the hostel since April this year, a female resident, who is also a community worker at the complex, said the killings have turned the Nguni Hostel into a killing field.

“Suddenly local residents are too scared to walk outside after sunset,” she said, requesting that her identity is withheld for fear of possible reprisals. She described life for the ordinary residents inside the hostel as dire and highly unpredictable.

“People are just too scared to walk about as they used to before.”

Local residents approached for comment referred Kathorus MAIL to the local regional tribal representatives/izi-Nduna. Asked about the safety concerns for their respective subjects, Ntshayi-Ntshayi laid the recent acts of rampant lawlessness at the hostel on what he said was fuelled by the lack of security around the unfenced complex.

“Any person is able to walk through any of the unguarded openings around this complex and do whatever he or she likes. Sadly, some of these people take advantage of the lack of security in the area and walk in here with firearms and cause mayhem, killing innocent people.

“None of the existing access points around this hostel are manned by some form of a security system to control who comes in or leaves the hostel at all hours of the day and night,” said Ntshayi-Ntshayi.

Asked to comment about the sudden upsurge in violence and the killing of two residents inside the complex, Ntshayi-Ntshayi described the shootings as regrettable and unfortunate. He said it infuriates him that as leaders at the hostel, they were unable to identify the culprits responsible for these wanton murders of innocent people.

Another local leader said: “It is difficult to say who these people are because most of these shootings take place at night when people are asleep.”

“People’s lives have been placed in a very precarious situation as each night is turned into a senseless shooting spree by unknown people with guns,” said a woman who runs an informal restaurant in a shack at the complex. “It is very dangerous to live here,” she said.

  AUTHOR
Zaid Khumalo

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