WATCH: Various political leaders visit 'house of horrors' for homeless in Strandfontein

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Apr 18, 2020

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Cape Town - Leaders of opposition political parties gathered at the controversial Strandfontein temporary relocation camp on Saturday, where at least 1 500 homeless people were being housed due to the lockdown instituted to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Outside the Strandfontein Sports Complex, Western Cape commissioner Chris Nissen explained that the Human Rights Council requested the meeting so that fact could be separated from fiction, "because there is a lot of fake news running around out there".

Western Cape provincial commissioner Chris Nissen addresses the media outside the Strandfontein Sports Complex. Video: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

However, City of Cape Town Law Enforcement officials refused them entry earlier on Saturday.

ANC MP Faiez Jacobs said he forced his way into the camp. Jacobs added that he was briefed by the independent doctors monitoring the situation. "She explained to me the house of horrors that is happening here. There are 600 people living in a tent called Ubuntu."

ANC MP Faiez Jacobs. Video: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

Jacobs said the doctor explained that because there is no separation, the women told her they don't feel safe. She also made claims of money or cigarettes being offered for sex.

"We must charge JP (Smith) and the mayor (Dan Plato) for creating conditions for the pandemic to spread. What is happening here is a dereliction of duty."

ANC MP Faiez Jacobs. Video: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

The senior TB/HIV adviser with MSF, Dr Gilles van Cutsem, an independent expert who came to investigate the conditions at the camp, also addressed the media.

"We found, as an independent investigation team, that on the health side, you have 1 600 people in this camp (where) infection control is insufficient to ensure full prevention of Covid-19 or TB. You have up to 1 600 people in one tent, with social distancing of two metres not being respected and also not possible.

"Also, with insufficient ventilation in that tent. You have other tents that are smaller with 300 and 200 people, that are still very difficult to maintain proper infection prevention and control within.

 Senior TB/HIV adviser with MSF Dr Gilles van Cutsem. Video: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

"The other thing is that you have very vulnerable populations in these tents because lots of them are homeless. You have some elderly people with severe psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or dementia.

"You have people who are disabled, you have elderly people and pregnant women. You have drug users who have abruptly interrupted either their alcohol or heroin use and so they are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms."

Van Cutsem said there are also alleged gang members, sex workers, and men and women who are grouped together.

"In addition to health concerns, you also have a lot of tension in those tents, and we did witness events of violence.

"In terms of healthcare, on Saturday, healthcare was provided by the City of Cape Town in a medical tent from 8am to 4pm and there were no medical services after 4pm. 

"At night, it was difficult to obtain an ambulance and it took many hours as occupants had to convince security staff or camp management to call an ambulance."

At around 5.30pm, after a long discussion between the SAPS and Law Enforcement, the City of Cape Town agreed to open the gates and only allowed the leaders of the political parties to enter.

Video: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

IOL contacted the City of Cape Town for comment, but had no reply at the time of publication.

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