Who is Bongani Hlope?

Bongani Hlope, named by numerous people as central to the continuing Glebelands Hostel violence, was apparently born in Umkomaas, on KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast.

A source, who lived in the town at around the same time, estimates that Hlope was born in about 1986, which would make him about 30 years old.

Repeated attempts to contact him this week, including the sending of 10 detailed questions to his cellphone by SMS, drew no response.

According to Vanessa Burger, who works closely with the hostel dwellers’ association, uBunye Bamahostela, Hlope previously lived at the Jacobs and KwaMashu hostels in Durban.

The source claimed that he was unwelcome in his home town and that his unpopularity relates to a robbery from a stokvel.

“He’s the kind of person who loves money – he’s doing all this at Glebelands for money – his main intention is to get rich.”

The source remarked that Hlope is charismatic and persuasive: “What I’ve noticed is that he’s really good at mobilising people to listen to him. He can convince people to do something to please him even if it’s a bad thing.”

Burger and others interviewed by amaBhungane say that his method is to work through others.

“He makes all the decisions,” said one Glebelands resident. “But he doesn’t go himself – he sends young men who are 20, 25 years old.”

At least five people amaBhungane has interviewed allege that he is regularly seen in the company of a policeman based at the Berea police station in Durban.

Burger confirmed that this allegation has cropped up in the dozens of residents’ statements she has collected.

“They are often seen driving around Glebelands together in the same vehicle, and attending ANC meetings together,” she said.

Last year, the Mail & Guardian published an amaBhungane article about Glebelands in which residents alleged that there was a connection between Hlope and a local ANC ward councillor, in whose company several residents claim to have seen him.

Asked about Hlope’s alleged association with the Durban policeman, KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said the provincial police commissioner had tasked the head of detectives in KwaZulu-Natal to investigate all Glebelands cases, but “this information has not surfaced in our investigation”.

In an apparent tilt at Burger and De Haas, Naicker continued: “We are extremely concerned that organisations desperate for funding are peddling such information to the media in desperation to get media coverage for their funding, rather than having a genuine interest in solving the problems that exist in Glebelands.

“This is a serious hindrance to our investigations and only serves to fuel further violence, as such individuals are aligning themselves with a certain group in the hostel.”

He said the police would not be pressured into making premature arrests.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.



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