The Department of Public Works spent R3.6 million for the provision of facilities for refugees situated at Bellville Paint City and Wingfield in Kensington. Photograph: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
The Department of Public Works spent R3.6 million for the provision of facilities for refugees situated at Bellville Paint City and Wingfield in Kensington. Photograph: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Relocating Cape refugees to shelter cost millions, situation remains unresolved

By Marvin Charles Time of article published Jan 13, 2021

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Cape Town – The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure spent R3.6 million for the provision of facilities for refugees situated at Bellville Paint City and Wingfield in Kensington.

In a written parliamentary reply, Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille said the original arrangement was for a short period as the State of Disaster did not initially have an expiry date. Public Works supplied ablution facilities and a marquee to house the refugees temporarily.

“I was informed the name of the company is C-Squared Group (Pty) Ltd. The company made available for use its marquee as it did not use it during lockdown because they did not have any events.

“The company requested the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to pay the transportation cost from the Free State to Cape Town.”

She said the department paid R60 000 for the transportation.

“There was no stipulated duration for the interim use as the State of Disaster was extended from time to time to deal with the pandemic. The marquee remained on site for the duration till to date. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has now taken over this responsibility,” said De Lille.

De Lille was answering a parliamentary question put by the DA's public works spokesperson Samantha Graham. Graham enquired about the bid process used to procure the marquee and which company received the tender.

De Lille said the company that received the tender was awarded three bids at different times.

“The company will bid as any other business and will be adjudicated accordingly. There will be no special treatment where they are concerned. Proper procurement processes will be followed as per the contracts stipulated,” she said.

Graham said: “The refugee crisis is massive and Public Works has been roped in the middle of this because it has been handled very wrong. It's not the mandate of Public Works to do this.

“I will be putting in a follow-up question regarding the cost of this and what budget vote was used and whether the costs can be recovered. Home Affairs has washed its hands clean where the refugees are concerned and no one seems to know what to do.”

Around 600 refugees have lived at the Paint City temporary shelter for nine months, after being removed from Greenmarket Square. The shelter was established under the Disaster Management Act regulations.

Currently, there are two proposals from the Department of Home Affairs: either the refugees are reintegrated into their communities or are repatriated. The issue has forced Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs to intervene.

In October, the Department of Home Affairs told the committee it was formulating an exit strategy but the State of Disaster has had a significant impact on its plan.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said: “The protesters who were staying at the Methodist Church were removed in light of the pandemic because we could not have people on the street.

“As long as the State of Disaster is enacted they will remain where they are. In terms of repatriation, as soon as we went on level 1 we started processing refugees in Paint City and we found some that they don’t have any right to be here.

“The magistrate has ordered them to be deported. We must repatriate those who have no rights to be in South Africa and the process is ongoing.”

Cape Argus

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