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Inside Durban’s notorious Glebelands Hostel

Inside Durban’s notorious Glebelands Hostel
Scelo Majola sits in his house. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)


Daily Maverick chief photographer Felix Dlangamandla recently spent a few hours in the notorious Glebelands Hostel in Umlazi, Durban. A place known for violent murders between 2014 and 2016, Dlangamandla’s images tell a story of continuing living challenges, but also of hope for what could be.

  • A view of Glebelands hostel, situated South of Durban in KwaZulu Natal. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)
  • Scelo Majola has lived in his flat for XX years.

Glebelands Hostel in Umlazi, Durban, made headlines in 2017 when eight men were arrested for a series of crimes committed by the so-called Glebelands Eight – a group of men who terrorised the hostel between August 2014 and March 2016 through extortion, attempted murder and murder-for-hire.

Daily Maverick’s chief photographer, Felix Dlangamandla, went to see the living conditions seven years after it made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Driving through the dilapidated entrance past the collapsed guard hut, a mixture of fear, adrenalin and anxiety coursed through my body. I had followed the court case of the Glebelands Eight closely. Here I was entering ground zero where more than 100 brutal murders took place. The long, dark history of the killings which made international headlines is not easy to ignore as you drive inside.

Residents are seemingly content in Block R but say a lot more can be done to improve their living conditions. Read more in Daily Maverick: Chilling evidence in Umlazi hostel murder trial

A man known as Magaye, whom I had managed to make contact with before my visit, met me and showed me around, ensuring my safety. I had to first engage with the elders of the hostel about gaining access to Block R, a very rare opportunity.


Left, bottom right and bottom: Scelo Majola wishes his family could join him at Glebelands. Top right: Monwabisi Dida eats his morning porridge to prepare for the new day’s challenges. (Photos: Felix Dlangamandla)


Most of the residents told me they are happy that their basic needs, such as water and electricity, are being met in the ANC-run metro. Their concerns include a lack of security lights at night – many robberies and killings occurred as criminals took advantage of the darkness. They are also asking the government to upgrade the buildings, which are run down and have not been upgraded since the hostel was built in the 1960s. Glebelands was built for migrant workers coming from the Eastern Cape to work in the city, particularly in Durban’s shipping and manufacturing industries.

One resident, Scelo Majola, asked that the hostel be converted to accommodate families, since it is designed for single men to go to work in the morning, come back, wash, sleep, eat and repeat. It wasn’t built as a family hostel. There is a small kitchen, bathroom with a toilet, basin and bath, and a bed. There is no living room. 

Majola’s wish is for proper living conditions, with family units to make it more of a home than a place to stay for work.

Another resident, Mfana Nzama, felt the 29 May elections were “just a waste of time”.

“The government dangles a lot of nice things in front of us just to attract votes, but there’s no results,” says Nzama.

Simphiwe Khathi pleaded with the municipality to fix the ongoing sewerage problems in the area — an old challenge that has never been dealt with.

Left to right: Mfana Nzama takes advantage of some windy weather and hangs his washing on the line, Sewage overflows out of a sewerage drain, Resident Mandlakayise Dantyi feeds his chickens, There are over 70 flats in Glebelands hostel, home to over 20 000 people, mostly men. (Photos: Felix Dlangamandla)

Walking away, I felt a sense of calm surrounding me and the hostel, quite the opposite to how I felt when I arrived. After meeting a few residents and getting a glimpse of daily life at Glebelands, I could picture the place filled with families, and kids running around. Mandlakayise Dantyi was feeding his chickens and it reminded me of the villages in the Eastern Cape where I’m from. This heightened the vision I had of it in the future – a potential homeland village in a suburban area, a place where people still live with hope. I trust my images will show this. DM



Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Laurence bekink says:

    200 not 20 000 im guessing.

  • Sekhohliwe Lamola says:

    It cause a sad feeling and distress to find that the life’s experiences of this hostel residents has undergone cosmetic changes, since post 1994. The fact of the matter is that the communities have the power and own agency to make meaningful changes through social activism. It is through better social organisation and collective effort that local government will be compelled to meet the basic necessities, instead of condemning community to dehumanised living circumstances and commodifying their labour.

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