The City’s handling of the nearly 2 000 people at its Strandfontein shelter has come under scrutiny. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)
The City’s handling of the nearly 2 000 people at its Strandfontein shelter has come under scrutiny. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

City of Cape Town defends R500 fine for homeless person at Strandfontein shelter

By Francesca Villette And Siphokazi Vuso Time of article published Apr 17, 2020

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Cape Town – The City of Cape Town has defended its decision to fine a homeless person R500, with safety and security Mayco member JP Smith saying: “We cannot allow people to behave aggressively and get away with it. It’s as simple as that.”

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu weighed in on the matter, saying: “That is just not right, we need to give people the dignity they deserve.”

The person was fined for threatening language and behaving in a riotous manner, directed at Law Enforcement officers, said Smith.

The City’s handling of the nearly 2 000 people has come under scrutiny with several human rights organisations, the latest being Doctors Without Borders (MSF), finding gross overcrowding posed dangerous risks of the homeless contracting Covid-19 and TB.

MSF called for the phased decommissioning of the Strandfontein Temporary Relocation camp, and for municipal authorities to invest more resources in their shelters.

An 18-year-old was raped at the site and one person died.

SA Human Rights Commission (SHRC) commissioner Chris Nissen

visited the area on Thursday and condemned the fining.

The R500 needs to be paid by the homeless person within the next three months. “I don’t think it’s right that people should be fined, they’re here under your care.

“For now, we need to stabilise the situation. We need to work with the City to say, ‘How do we all leave everything, the prejudice and party political issues out of this?’” Nissen said.

The City came under fire last year when it emerged that it had been fining homeless people for sleeping and camping in public spaces.

Its metro police’s displaced persons unit had received 3 051 complaints from the public about “anti-social behaviour” by people living on the street.

This led to the City being taken to court for an interdict preventing its actions against the homeless.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said yesterday he would raise issues at the Strandfontein site and the MSF’s report at the next meeting he has with City officials.

“I note the MSF report and will discuss it,” he said.

When asked for his comment on the continuing issues, he said the City was carrying out national directives.

Zulu yesterday said everyone needed to work together to provide services and stop the spread of Covid-19.

She said the national government relied on provinces and municipalities to carry out work on the ground.

“These are extraordinary times and people need to pull together to ensure services on the ground are provided. Provinces identify land and the national government gets involved to provide resources,” Zulu said.

She also called on the City to stop fining homeless people.

Despite the damning MSF

report, mayor Dan Plato yesterday maintained that the issue was being politicised.

“I have visited the temporary emergency accommodation sites that we have set up for the refugees in Wingfield, and for the homeless in Strandfontein.

“These sites have all the necessary ablution facilities, water, electricity and the appropriate health and safety measures, while ensuring that social distancing takes place.

“Procurement never happens as fast as we would like it to happen, but I think it is commendable that we have managed to get these sites up and running at such short notice. I have found the politicisation of the services being provided to the homeless to be most shameful.

“The public has been given half-truths and misinformation by people with political agendas. I want to assure the public that everyone on site is treated well, and with respect and dignity,” he said.

Community Services mayco member Zahid Badroodien said that by Wednesday, 142 people had left the site.

“Facilities are available on-site for isolation and quarantine. Furthermore, a database of all clients requiring chronic care and mental health services has been established, with the relevant referrals for further treatment,” he said.

Cape Times

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