A police officer is among four people arrested in predawn raids for murders that occurred at the infamous Glebelands Hostel in Umlazi, Durban, authorities said on Thursday.
Senior police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker has detailed how several police units - including the Provincial Organised Crime Task Team, Special Task Force, Provincial Tracking Team and National Intervention Unit - conducted the raids in Harding and at the Glebelands Hostel on Wednesday.
Naicker said the teams had split into two groups, one of which was in KwaMachi, Harding, where a 29-year-old suspect was arrested.
The second team went to Block 51 at the hostel, where they arrested a 45-year-old. Naicker said they then turned their attention to Block 43, where they arrested a 34-year-old suspect.
"During a search of the room of the 34-year-suspect, a police cap, two police reflector jackets, a state issued laptop, as well as a number of internal police correspondences, were seized," he said.
Naicker said this led to the arrest of a 37-year-old police officer at Durban Central police station, who has been linked to the shootings in Glebelands.
"The arrested men will be charged accordingly and will appear in court soon."
Acting provincial commissioner Major-General Bheki Langa welcomed the arrests.
"Our detectives have been working very hard to bring down those behind the killings and to ensure our investigations meet up to the high standard that is expected by our courts."
Langa also thanked members of the community who had come forward and worked with the investigators to reveal the perpetrators behind the violence.
"We want criminals to know that they will not enjoy a peaceful festive season as long they are on the run from police," he said.
'Killings were orchestrated'
Naicker hailed the arrest of the men as a breakthrough, saying some of the murders which had occurred at the hostel "were not the normal kind of murders".
"Initial investigations revealed that a lot of the killings were orchestrated in an organised fashion. It then became very apparent to police management that a different approach had to be employed in dealing with the Glebelands Hostel situation."
He said the Provincial Organised Unit investigators, together with crime intelligence, had embarked "on many months of tedious investigation, hostel infiltration and information gathering in trying to get to those responsible for the atrocities at the hostel".
Naicker listed a number of obstacles encountered by police during evidence gathering: Reluctant witnesses; missing witnesses; witnesses being killed; negative perceptions from different sectors in the communities; and information being discussed on various public platforms which helped the suspects keep one step ahead of the police.
Glebelands Hostel has been the centre of controversy since 2014. More than 90 murders have taken place there.
The Moerane Commission on political killings has heard how Glebelands was a "reservoir of hitmen" and how police were actively involved in violence.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu established the commission in October 2016, chaired by advocate Marumo Moerane, to investigate the high number of political killings in the province since 2011.