South Africa: Strandfontein Homeless Shelter - Only One Fine for 'Riotous' Behaviour, Says City

Hundreds of homeless people have been moved to the City of Cape Town’s temporary site at the Strandfontein Sports Grounds, as part of the response to COVID-19. Upon arrival, people are screened for the novel coronavirus. There are no other health services for the many underlying health issues, including mental health, substance dependency, and chronic illness. There are many people in the camp with chronic illnesses, such as HIV and TB, and there is no identifiable way that people with these conditions can get access to treatment. There is no protective equipment, such as masks, and there is one basin at each marquee for people to wash their hands.

Only one person was given a fine at the City of Cape Town's Strandfontein camp and it was for using threatening language and behaving in a "riotous manner" towards law enforcement officers, the mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said on Thursday.

"I'm not sure what our officers were expected to do in this situation - we cannot allow people to behave aggressively and get away with it. It's as simple as that," said Smith.

The City has faced a barrage of criticism over the tent city it erected in line with Disaster Act directives that homeless people be taken off pavements and accommodated in shelters during the coronavirus lockdown.

"The apparent outrage around this issue is astounding, and shows just how desperate people are to show up the City and score cheap political points," said Smith.

"It is very disheartening to have to constantly defend ourselves from baseless attacks at a time when the City is working very hard to deal with the unprecedented crisis that Covid-19 has presented.

"I'm calling on everyone to pull together in the interest of our city at this critical time and to be far more responsible in what they put out there."

This was after the GOOD party's Brett Herron, a former councillor at the City, said the person now faced being hauled before the Mitchells Plain Magistrate's Court on 29 July if the fine of R500 was not paid by 15 July.

"The Strandfontein camp has been a chaotic and shambolic attempt at shelter and now it seems that the City has completely lost its mind by issuing fines to the penniless homeless people. A picture is emerging of a government that is completely out of control," Herron said.

On Tuesday, the leader of the opposition ANC in the council, Xolani Sotashe, was refused entry when he and members of the provincial legislature, Pat Lekker and Cameron Dugmore, attempted to enter the camp to conduct oversight.

An infuriated Sotashe said he was concerned that opposition parties were being denied their right to conduct oversight visits.

Journalists have also not been allowed to enter the site, where tents were erected to accommodate almost 2 000 people.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien defended the City's decision to deny various organisations and the media unconstrained access to the sports complex.

He said, while it was a public facility, it was being used as a shelter as part of national efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

When the shelter was first erected, there was a clash between two groups of people, and one man was arrested for the rape of an 18-year-old woman.

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