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WATCH: Strandfontein on edge after homeless unrest, DA councillor not consulted on move

Chaos erupted at the Strandfontein complex yesterday, where three people were arrested. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Chaos erupted at the Strandfontein complex yesterday, where three people were arrested. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 8, 2020


Cape Town – The City of Cape Town has been slammed for not allowing each community to take care of their homeless, which would have been far more manageable and needed less manpower to police. 

The chaos that erupted at the Strandfontein complex yesterday, where three people were arrested, could thus have been avoided. Around 1 000 homeless people have been placed temporarily at the site to curb the spread of Covid-19 since the weekend.

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DA councillor Elton Jansen has expressed his unhappiness over the City's decision to move the homeless to the sports grounds without consulting him or the residents. 

Strandfontein Police Forum chairperson Sandy Schuter Flowers told the Cape Times on Wednesday: "Why is it that each community couldn't have looked after their own homeless people? It would have been more manageable.

"We would actually as a community have mobilised ourselves to ensure that there was something to eat, that there was running water. Homeless people prefer to be in surroundings that are familiar to them.

"It would have been a lot easier in terms of policing. You wouldn't have needed to exhaust law enforcement agencies' deployments by sending everyone to one site.

'"We could have used maybe two or three law enforcement vehicles because we don't have so many homeless people in Strandfontein. We have less than 20 homeless.

"Within the informal settlements prior to the lockdown, there was a feeding scheme, which they use to feed to people in the informal settlements. In our community, we also feed our own homeless people. 

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"The NGOs in our community have partnered with other NGOs to feed the disadvantaged and poor people. The CPF and neighbourhood watch, we have taken it upon ourselves, dug into our pockets, and we also got sponsorship from the local businesses to purchase goods to assist the pensioners in our community. So I am sure we would have made these resources available to the homeless."

Commenting on yesterday's chaos, she said in an interview with "The ward councillor said yesterday there were ward councillors in the other areas who have brought the homeless people here under false pretences and that was the cause of the eruption yesterday. 

"They were not told they were going to stay here. They were told they were only going to be here for a short period of time like an hour or two to be tested and screened.

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"They were dropped off by the bus and then the bus left. That is why this thing happened with the homeless people. 

"The residents are extremely angry because they don't feel safe. They want to know if this is going to become another Blikkiesdorp. 

"What is going to happen to the homeless people after the lockdown? Are they going to provide buses for the homeless to go back?

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"Residents say they have homeless people coming to their homes looking for food. Wasn't there supposed to be strict access control? 

"Why are there people wanting to break out? Are they being held against their will."

Jansen said yesterday: "Today a group of homeless people were transported from Somerset West to Strandfontein. They were told by an unknown individual at a shelter that they are only coming to Strandfontein for an hour to be tested for Covid-19. 

"On arrival at the sports complex, they were informed that they here to stay for the duration of the lockdown period. This obviously caused them to be unhappy and that is how the chaos erupted.

"I can confirm that four people jumped over the fence. Three were arrested and one got away.

"No tent was set alight and no vibacrete fence was broken. It was the inner temporary fencing that was pushed over but was put back in place by the street people.

"A group from the Somerset West people decided out of free will that they will stay and the rest wanted to be taken back to Somerset West. A bus will be taking them back. When I left the camp, the bus was on its way to come collect them.

"I have said this before and I will say it again... I was NOT part of this decision to bring them here. If I was, I would have opposed it because I do not believe it is the best site for reasons I have given before.

"I will once again raise my concerns tomorrow at the operational meeting which I attend every day since they came here, which includes more (police) visibility in the Strandfontein area.

"I am not happy about this situation and the decision to bring the homeless to Strandfontein, but we are in a disaster and what I like and how I feel is not important right now. 

"I know the situation angered the community and understandably so, but I kindly request that the community remain calm during this period."

Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said: “The City would like to make it clear that, according to the SAPS, any person who leaves the site will be in violation of the national lockdown regulations and will be dealt with accordingly. 

"The City remains committed to ensuring that street people are offered a place to stay for the duration of the lockdown, as instructed by the national government, and to provide the necessary amenities."

Cape Times

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