Carlos Mesquita asks social development MEC Sharna Fernandez how is it that Safe Spaces are not currently registered, required to comply with or monitored by her department? Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Carlos Mesquita asks social development MEC Sharna Fernandez how is it that Safe Spaces are not currently registered, required to comply with or monitored by her department? Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Dear officials, don’t repeat the mistakes of Strandfontein temporary shelter

By Opinion Time of article published Dec 10, 2020

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by Carlos Mesquita

I recently posed questions to Dr Zahid Badroodien in this column about the abuses allegedly occurring at the City-owned shelter, known as “Paint City” in Bellville.

Dr Badrodien has not responded, reminding me of Strandfontein: we initially complained to the City about some of their service providers at the camp but their resultant protection of those errant service providers, putting us at risk in the process, led to us taking the City of Cape Town to court.

I urge Dr Badroodien and Social Development (DSD) MEC Sharna Fernandez not to make the same mistake that was made in Strandfontein.

Don’t respond to questions being asked and allegations being made - not only by myself but also by the homeless people of Cape Town (whom you are mandated to protect), as well as the concerned citizens (whom you have a mandate to represent) - by providing answers being fed to you and untested by your own offices.

This will result in us holding you responsible for the entire disaster.

MEC Fernandez, why are you and your department unaware of the critical shortage of bed spaces in Cape Town? Or are you aware and just not interested in remedying the situation, after all, sheltering the homeless is mandated to the provincial government and not the City, is it not?

Despite this, the City decided to address this crisis and its first Safe Space aimed at increasing bed space for the homeless opened in 2018.

A report issued three weeks ago puts Cape Town 11 000 beds short to home its homeless.

Of concern is the fact that Safe Spaces are not currently registered, required to comply with or monitored by DSD.

This being so, what are the processes in place to ensure that government legislation, policies, standards, and practices are being upheld and monitored at all the Safe Spaces and who is monitoring them?

How is one part of the government failing to comply with or be held accountable to its own standards? It is imperative that this be investigated urgently and transparent redress is actioned.

The department has also not responded to numerous calls for investigations into the corrupt nature of the relationships between some of the organisations it funds with the City of Cape Town’s Social Development Directorate.

Surely, as these Safe Spaces are defined by the City in terms of the norms and standards that are applicable to shelters, etc, that the provincial government oversees, then it stands to reason that those norms and standards be applied to Safe Spaces too, or not?

Why is the service provider Matdoc - at Safe Space 1 Culembourg as well as Paint City - not registered as a service provider despite rendering the same services as the shelters funded by Fernandez’s department?

Why are investigations of this magnitude being run internally when the possibility that the corruption, in this case, may have extended its influence to the highest authorities?

Why have these investigations not been expedited?

Why, as a service provider, was Matdoc not immediately suspended along with their having been awarded an extension on both their contracts at Culemburg 1 and Paint City valued at millions of rand for a new two-year period?

And also please explain the awarding to a similarly placed or even, it seems, related service provider, yet another contract for the second Safe Space at Culemburg valued at R20 million for a two-year period without a clear indication of your motivation in doing so?

SHOCKED? SO AM I!

With special thanks to Rev Annie Kirke.

* 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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