Homeless people at the Strandfontein try to make a run for it but are blocked by law enforcement officers. Some of them are frustrated being in a lockdown area and claim they are forced to be there and want to leave. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Homeless people at the Strandfontein try to make a run for it but are blocked by law enforcement officers. Some of them are frustrated being in a lockdown area and claim they are forced to be there and want to leave. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Suspect held for teen's rape at Strandfontein camp for homeless

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Apr 11, 2020

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** This article has been updated with comment from Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato.

Cape Town - Police have confirmed that a 36-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the rape of an 18-year old girl at the City of Cape Town's temporary camp for homeless people in Strandfontein.

The incident, which has been widely reported on crime watch groups on social media, took place on Good Friday.

Colonel Andrè Traut  confirmed the arrest and said that the suspect will appear at he Mitchells Plain Magitrate's Court on Tuesday.

The Strandfontein site, which houses around 2 000 homeless people relocated by the City of Cape Town for the duration of the national lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19, has been mired in controversy since the City's relocation plan was announced.

Many homeless people at the site have accused the City of forcefully moving them there and keeping them in conditions which some have described as akin to a concentration camp.

Cape Town residents  have been called on to take a stand against the Strandfontein temporary shelter provided to the homeless by the City of Cape Town in response to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Volunteers from different Community Action Networks have written a letter listing their objections and concerns about the living conditions at the Strandfontein Sports ground site. The group have encouraged people to sign the letter before Monday, 13 April 2020 at midday, as it will be sent to Mayor Dan Plato.

"The crisis that we are facing exposes more acutely the depth of poverty and inequality in Cape Town. As the regulations and lockdown begin to bite, too many people are hungry and without a home or access to opportunities to survive," the letter states.

Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato has issued the following statement on the incident:

‘Law Enforcement officials from City of Cape Town responded immediately when an allegation of sexual assault was made earlier this weekend. We are working with the South African Police Service (SAPS) Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit to investigate the allegation.

Any accusation of sexual assault is an incredibly sensitive matter and the City is doing everything possible to ensure that it is handled in a manner befitting the situation.

I find it alarming that some political parties have already seized on the opportunity to turn this into a political matter. No facts have been determined yet, so it is entirely inappropriate for an opposition political party to state as fact that an 18-year-old was raped.

At this point, we can provide no details as the matter is under investigation. I have called on the SAPS to conduct and conclude their investigation with urgency so that we can provide the facts to the public of Cape Town in an environment where half-truths and misinformation is being spread like wildfire.

We would like to reiterate that the site at Strandfontein was set up under the instruction of the national disaster regulations published by the national government. We have explained the reasons for the location of the site, and we have provided an extensive list of the services that have been made available at the site.

We were further advised by experienced NGO partners who care for the homeless community that housing people in social groups would avoid unnecessary tensions.

Despite claims to the contrary, no person is kept on-site against their will, as has been proven by the relocation of a group back to Somerset West last week.

The City is going to great lengths to ensure the wellbeing of those on-site, in accordance with the regulations of the disaster declaration.

We are working hard to address any of the shortcomings that have been identified. Municipalities across the country have had to act with little preparation time and we are doing the best we can to provide these services under a very challenging time.

One of the benefits of providing the temporary shelter is that hundreds of people have been screened for Covid-19 and Tuberculosis, and those requiring medical treatment have been seen to as a result. This might likely not have happened if they had remained on the street.

The ongoing political point-scoring in a time of one of the greatest health crises to face our country, and the globe, is shameful. 

The malicious misinformation that is being spread is a disservice to the many organisations who have pulled together, with very little lead time, to provide this service. We appeal to all organisations to respect the privacy of the individual who has reported this alleged rape so that the police processes may be allowed to be concluded as quickly as possible.’

IOL

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's special #Coronavirus page.

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za 

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