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Strandfontein homeless: Looking back a year later - Part 2

Carlos Mesquita continues to reflect on his time at the Strandfontein camp this time last year, stating how living at the temporary shelter had caused left him traumatised. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Carlos Mesquita continues to reflect on his time at the Strandfontein camp this time last year, stating how living at the temporary shelter had caused left him traumatised. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Apr 14, 2021


Strandfontein homeless: Looking back a year later - (Part 2 of 3) by Carlos Mesquita

Many people have asked: “Why rehash the past? Strandfontein is old news.”

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I have decided to relive this experience by publishing it in this column for two reasons.

First, at the time, we had no voice. The information that came out of Strandfontein was second-hand.

Second, it’s all but finished for those of us who lived that hell and continue living in fear of landing back on the streets.

We are feeling the effects, both of Strandfontein and what happened afterwards.

Another popular question was: “But shouldn’t you be glad about Strandfontein, look how it’s changed your life?”

My argument has always been that the changes, good and bad, were as a result of choices we made in how we chose to handle a horrible situation, not as a consequence of the so-called services that were meant to be offered at Strandfontein and weren’t.

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The intention might have been there, but the reality is far removed from the narrative.

Dr Zahid Badroodien, the Mayco member under whom social development and the homelessness fall, and I have had numerous discussions about this.

Badroodien and I have gone from disliking each other immensely during Strandfontein and immediately thereafter, to respecting and and even liking one another (I hope) when we finally did meet and opened ourselves up to forming a working relationship.

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We seem to share enough common ground to be able work on a vision whereby we will not only reduce but eventually end chronic homelessness in Cape Town. The one thing, however, that we will never agree on, is Strandfontein.

I lived Strandfontein; Badroodien reported on it.

He spent all of 12 minutes on one day at tent number two, where I, along with the other members of the Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee (Shac), were accommodated.

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The other information he used to substantiate the statements and claims he made at the time came second-hand from the City staff who were on site.

Unfortunately, people in his position will want to accept that the information from their staff is accurate. We didn’t have access to him to correct him when he made those often offensive statements pertaining to the committee and anyone who assisted us in getting our message out.

One of the other popular questions posed: “How do you and Dr Badroodien now get along?”

The other popular question was what have I been doing since Strandfontein, except for my column, and what do I ant to do?

This past Sunday was a milestone day.

After what I described as a “difficult pregnancy”, our aim to establish a new body for the homeless sector, which would replace the Street People’s Forum (SPF) and for the first time include homeless and re-homed individuals, was finally birthed as Melene Rossouw of the Women Lead Movement acted as my midwife, as she facilitated the process of representatives of Shac and the SPF coming together to iron out the constitution for a body to be known as the Homeless Action Coalition.

The other project we have been working on, the Rehoming Collective, which will work towards new and dignified ways of homing the homeless, has also been registered and is in the process of board selection.

With the final meeting to discuss the recommendations that will be included in the much-anticipated Inkathalo Conversations Report being held today as you read this, we come to the end of yet another phase in the lives of the individuals that on a day in April, in Strandfontein said: enough is enough.

To be continued…

* Carlos Mesquita and a handful of others formed HAC (the Homeless Action Committee) that lobbies for the rights of the homeless. He also manages Our House in Oranjezicht, which is powered by the Community Chest.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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