Lansdowne homeless cry foul after weekend raids by City law enforcement
Cape Town - Non-profit organisation Indipam has slammed the City after law enforcement officers ransacked the structures of a Lansdowne homeless community and seized structures and other belongings over the weekend.
The organisation said that between the City's plans to “clean up” and the implementation of programmes by the Social Development Department, there had been a serious lack of understanding and initiative to tackle the growing concerns of homelessness in the province.
Indipam founder Pam Tosh, who has been helping the residents, said she was mostly concerned about the displaced elderly and chronically ill people who had been living there for 15 years or more.
“The fact is that the procedures and the way the City and the ward councillor approached this have been malicious towards the people who were promised their rights in terms of getting a piece of land or some sort of protection from the City because they have been there for some time,” she said.
Tosh said the raids were reversing the gains that she had made with the residents.
“It's not acceptable that I have struggled throughout a winter and almost a year of Covid-19 restrictions without support, and that no representatives have seen the value in remodelling outdated First World systems, with the understanding that what these people need is hands-on help.
“What I continue to do in a personal capacity should be accomplished by many teams working together. As long as we continue to pull them down, disempower them out of roles in which they can be constructive citizens and contribute to our future and society, we will continue to see reversals and drug-related crime, violence and drinking,” Tosh said.
One of the residents, Betty Mokoena, said: “They took my three mattresses, my crockery and the groceries. So what must I eat now? I don’t have any income. I have HIV, TB and high blood pressure and my body is sore from sleeping on the floor. Pamela has been helping us with food and blankets, but they took all that away,” she said.
Another resident, Victoria Titus, said they were still in shock at the number of structures and other items that were seized, as this had not happened on previous operations.
“It's quite concerning that the law enforcement officers decided to take away our beds and structures while winter season is upon us. It is inhumane,” she said.
Ward councillor Mark Kleinschmidt has previously said that the plan for Lansdowne Station Precinct is to install a perimeter fence to create a safe parking space for train commuters.
City spokesperson Luthando Thyalibhongo said the City's law enforcement department did not remove occupied structures, nor any structure that street people refused to take down or vacate. He said that officers, however, cleared up debris left behind when street people left an area.
Thyalibhongo said this was in accordance with disaster management regulations.