** This article has been updated with comment from Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato.
Cape Town - The ANC caucus in the Western Cape has demanded the immediate closure of the Strandfontein temporary camp after an 18-year-old girl was raped there on Good Friday. The party has also called for national government to intervene in what it said was "developing into a major crisis".
According to the ANC, the teenager was gang-raped, but Colonel Andrè Traut was unable to confirm this. Traut said that police are still investigating the incident.
On Thursday, ANC MPLs Cameron Dugmore and Gladys Bakubaku-Vos paid an oversite visit to the site which is being managed by the City of Cape Town as part of efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“We have been warning for days that unilaterally setting up the camp for people who live on our streets was a recipe for disaster. During a visit to this camp earlier this week our MPL Gladys Bakubaku-Vos warned it was unacceptable to mix men and women and, especially in light of the high incidence of rape in our country, also putting women at risk. It saddens us that the rape of a young female has proved our warnings to be correct," the party said.
Residents of Strandfontein have expressed their unhappiness at the relocation of around 2 000 homeless people to their area and homeless people housed at the camp have described it as akin to living in a concentration camp.
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 City of Cape rushed to establish this camp in a remote part of Cape Town, without consulting Strandfontein residents and ferried the marginalized to exile. As far as we’re concerned Councillor JP Smith not only masterminded this assault on the homeless but also defended it," the ANC said.
“He and the Mayor, Dan Plato, must take political responsibility for this crime and must resign now. They are part of an administration that has deliberately been disregarding the national lockdown regulations, including cutting off the water supply to different communities, evicting people in Makhaza.
“This camp must be closed. How many more heinous crimes must be committed before the City of Cape Town will come to its senses? There are many unused buildings and community halls that belong to the City of Cape Town that can be used to house the homeless during the Covid-19 lockdown,” the party said.
Mayor Dan Plato has issued the following statement in response to 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.’