A homeless person seeks shelter from the bitter cold that hit Pretoria over the weekend. Picture: Jacques Naude
Pretoria - Residents of Pretoria will be spared freezing, below-zero temperatures this winter.

Forecasters at the South African Weather Service on Monday predicted warmer conditions than in the past few winters in the capital. 

In their seasonal climate watch report for February to June, they said this was the result of the negative phase of the Southern Annular Mode, compounded by the weakening of the polar vortex often associated with colder and wetter conditions over the winter-rainfall region of the country.

The experts confirmed it did not appear there were any signs of severe winter conditions to contend with this year. “At the same time, the public is reminded that with winter on the horizon, significant water loss can be expected with the usual decline of rainfall, as well as high amounts of evaporation,” the report stated.

City residents pulled out their winter gear and electric blankets to brace the frigid temperatures that began on Friday evening - and as usual those who only had the streets to call home were hit hard.

Wet sponges, blankets, soaked clothes and being chased away while trying to escape the pouring rain became the norm for many.

Eugene Slabbert was among them. Slabbert, who hails from Durban, said in the nine years he had lived on the streets of Pretoria, he had seen how more and more people had turned their backs on the homeless.

“We’re all alone because there’s this prevailing stigma that has led people not to regard us as human beings anymore. All they see are uneducated, lazy, drug addicts, drunkards and thieves."

“You can tell by the way people rush to quickly lock themselves in their cars or speed off as we pass them; it really hurts."

“We are attacked and harassed on a daily basis everywhere we go; no one wants to hear us out anymore. We can’t even seek shelter under buildings because we are cussed at and assaulted by security guards at every turn,” he said.

Slabbert said if people only stopped to hear them out they would be surprised to learn that some of them possessed qualifications and were not just looking for handouts.

Coming to Pretoria to look for work as a fitter and turner, Slabbert said he lost everything after he was unable to find work following a hit and run accident. 

“I’ve been unable to find work ever since, so this has become my life. This is our toughest battle because in the early hours of the morning the temperatures drop and all you have are soaked blankets for cover.”

Mongezi Mbethe, another of the city’s destitute, has been out on the streets for 10 years.

After the weekend's cold snap, winter on the streets was a living hell for each and everyone of them. Mbethe said he often looked on with a heavy heart as people rushed off home each day knowing they would be greeted by a meal and a warm bed to sleep in.

“I’m tired of always being accused of having robbed or attacked someone. I know I have a problem, but I don’t go out attacking people because I’m in need."

"I just recycle trash to feed my addiction and get a bit of food."

“There have been people who came and promised to help us, but they never come through for us so we just continue holding on,” he said.

Forecaster Dranfby Bulo said the homeless could rest easy for now as the cold front that had engulfed much of the country had moved out already.

Bulo said the coming week’s weather conditions would be characterised by fairly cool weather with minimal chances of rain.

“We’re expecting clear skies for this week with temperatures remaining fairly cool in Pretoria.”

He said temperatures would range between a minimum of 10ºC to 23ºC. 

Monday’s minimum was 7ºC and the maximum 18ºC , while Tuesday was expected to be more pleasant with a minimum of 9ºC and a maximum of 21ºC, with partly cloudy conditions.

Tomorrow should swing between 10ºC and 22ºC, while Thursday will be between 9ºC and 22ºC.

Bulo said people could start bringing out their heaters and winter gear as it appeared that winter had officially started.

Pretoria News