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#changethestory: It's about bricks and mortar, not creating another Blikkiesdorp

Having seen the pictures of the evacuated refugees’ living conditions in the tent in Bellville, it is clear that the City’s strategy is resettlement in apparent complete violation of the Covid19 regulations, the writer says. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Having seen the pictures of the evacuated refugees’ living conditions in the tent in Bellville, it is clear that the City’s strategy is resettlement in apparent complete violation of the Covid19 regulations, the writer says. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 6, 2020

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Do the virus intervention strategies used by government and the City in particular, signal a new apartheid?

I don’t for one moment think that our political leaders, civil servants, police and military are implicitly evil. I also know that they have an incredibly intense decision-making burden to carry right now.

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Across the media platforms, apartheid-style behaviour of some of the members of the police and army are clear for all to see. They will not dare ask a white man to roll in the dust to his home. They will not dare use the brute force in the suburbs that they are using in the townships.

But apparently, in 2020, that’s still police policy on how you treat black people. For this, Police Minister Bheki Cele and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula must take full responsibility. And I hope that many injury to dignity prosecutions will follow.

What is happening to the soul of our country? While we read and hear of heroic stories of generosity and kindness, we also see the dark shadow of apartheid looming like an opportunistic infection over this lockdown. About 2000 (or is it 4000?) homeless people will be relocated onto a sportsfield in Strandfontein.

How does this removal comply with Covid-19 regulations? I lived in Mitchell’s Plain for a long time and I can tell you that I have never seen 2000 or 4000 people on any sportsfield. And the ward councillor and ratepayers agreed with this?

There is not a ratepayers’ group anywhere in this city that will accept such a unilateral decision.

Having seen the pictures of the evacuated refugees’ living conditions in the tent in Bellville, it is clear the City’s strategy is resettlement in apparent complete violation of the Covid-19 regulations. Hundreds of refugees are sleeping on the floor next to each other. If one of them dies due to Covid-19, I hope the City is confronted with charges of culpable homicide.

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For the CBD homeless, the benefit of the move to Strandfontein is that they will now have ablution facilities. How tragic that the caring soul of our city is represented by toilets being given to people who asked for housing.

Whichever politician engineered this must take legal responsibility for the rapid spread of infection and probable death in this community if and when that happens.

This has all the features of a District 6 all over. This appears to be an exercise in forced removals. If you believe that the people who are being forcibly removed will be taken back to their original places of living in the CBD, you have not been any where near Delft.

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Started in 2007 as a Temporary Relocation Area (TRA) by the City, it is now home, from the original 1600 people to more than 25000 people served a daily diet of crime and violence and deserted by the City’s grandiose TRA scheme.

Under the opportunity the Covid19 Disaster Regulations gives the City, homeless people will now be relocated out of the CBD. And that is the big win for the City to move as many homeless people as possible out of the CBD.

How horrifying that we will once again, due to the eerily similar apartheid-style actions by the current political leadership in Cape Town, be commemorating another District 6- type removal of people from areas they have traditionally occupied.

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Opportunism has replaced developmental intelligence and sunk the honourable strategies to build one city for all.

In 2007, the City built a poverty camp in Blikkiesdorp and in 2015 it built another in Wolverivier. This year, it is building one in Strandfontein. The City should not complain about the increase of overcrowded informal settlements. It is helping to build it.

This is such a sad and tragically wasted moment in our political history. Here was a profound moment in our history, given to the City, to design a caring, inclusive city for all.

This was their moment to call on leaders and role-players from all spheres of the city to help design the city of our dreams. Instead, they have pulled out the apartheid housing manual and ordered the trucks to come in and remove the people. And the sales pitch they used? You will have toilets?

Did they not hear the people asked for houses? Why in the name of decency will the collective government not refurbish existing properties it owns into low-cost integrated housing units? History will record the names of the politicians who this year removed thousands of people to toilets, instead of houses.

What you fail to condemn with words, you condone with silence.

* Lorenzo A Davids is chief executive of the Community Chest. 

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

Cape Argus

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City of Cape Town

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