Dan Plato: Cape Town is caring for the homeless despite rampant political campaigning

COMMENT

Following the successful housing and quarantine facilities provided to the homeless in the City of Cape Town at the Strandfontein temporary emergency accommodation site, we have witnessed a rampant political campaign against the site that has been carried in the media. 

The site was set up in full compliance with Section 11D of the National Disaster Regulations as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

READ MORE: Strandfontein homeless site more a prison than a place of safety — Human rights report

Of course there were teething problems during the set-up of a site of this magnitude, but these were quickly addressed. Unfortunately, those shortcomings have been paraded as the status quo with other claims just simply being made up. 

One of the claims was that a man was murdered on the site. No murder has taken place. Another claimed that a 16-year-old girl was gangraped. No such incident took place. An 18-year-old woman made allegations of sexual assault against one individual, and that person has appeared in court and was granted bail. Another claim was that the homeless were shot at with rubber bullets. The City’s enforcement staff are not allowed to carry firearms on site so it would have been physically impossible for them to shoot at the homeless. Others said they were only fed dry bread. The daily menu actually includes three meals, tea, coffee and juice, with fruit and snacks in-between. Dinner has ranged from chicken and veg rotis, to beef stew and boerewors rolls. The portions are generous.

A prominent daily news website claimed that no medical support is being provided to those on site. This is just plain false and irresponsible to not fact check first. An on-site medical facility is staffed by at least 15 nurses, doctors, pharmacists and volunteers. 


A daily clinic service offers general health checks and over 800 homeless people have benefited from the diagnosis of chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension that would otherwise have gone unchecked on the streets. These individuals are now enrolled for chronic medication.

Social workers assess mental and substance abuse concerns and addicts have access to psychosocial support and referral pathways.

All homeless individuals were screened for the Coronavirus prior to admission at the facility. A small number required further testing following the screening process and they were placed in isolation until test results came back, all of which were negative. A number of the individuals did, however, present with tuberculosis, which would not have been identified had they continued living on the streets. The City has been providing the appropriate treatment for them in an isolated facility at the site to prevent infection of others. I have found it shocking that a representative of a reputable international organisation has claimed that no such facilities exist on the site. 

The City has gone to great lengths to comply with the national regulations using our own limited resources, while we await the disaster funding that the national government has indicated would be made available.

When political parties started campaigning against the Strandfontein temporary emergency accommodation site, I called on them to please have some respect and work with us. Instead, they have continued to politicise a national pandemic for personal political gain.

On March 18, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation and said: “It is therefore both appropriate and significant that the 14 political parties in our Parliament are standing together, across party political divides, to fight this disease together. We hereby demonstrate practically that we are united as the leaders of our nation to overcome this global crisis facing our country and our people.”

It is shameful that the unity called for by the president has not been practised in the Western Cape. Instead, opposition political parties and their members and affiliated groups in Cape Town are looking for any opportunity during this national crisis to politicise and discredit the work being done by the City of Cape Town.

A prominent activist claimed that the City failed to consult with NGOs who could have offered their assistance. Unfortunately the same person failed to acknowledge that the services at the Strandfontein site are being provided by the most experienced NGOs who work with the homeless – The Haven Night Shelter, Ubuntu and Oasis.

The City and NGO partners are on a daily basis reuniting individuals with their families for those who wish to return home and referring people to care facilities for medical or psychosocial reasons.

As the Strandfontein site was always planned to be decommissioned following the lifting of the initial lockdown, the City is putting plans in place to offer shelter placement or reintegration to any homeless individual at the facility willing to accept this offer following the lockdown.

We have encouraged all interested organisations, churches and groups to get involved in taking care of Cape Town’s homeless community at this time. Anyone with the ability to help does not need permission from the city to open their doors.

We are grateful to all partners and donors who have risen above the ugly politicking and continue to make valuable contributions in the form of blankets, water bottles, towels, toilet paper and other essentials.

When the media start to carry half-truths, misinformation and outright lies without bothering to check the facts first, it makes it near impossible for the truth to catch up as the lies spread like wildfire on social media.

Dan Plato is the executive mayor of Cape Town

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Dan Plato
Dan Plato is the executive mayor of Cape Town

Related stories

‘Where the governments see statistics, I see the faces of my friends’

Yvette Raphael describes herself as a ‘professional protester, sjambok feminist and hater of trash’. Government officials would likely refer to her as ‘a rebel’. She’s fought for equality her entire life, she says. And she’s scared of no one

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never meet

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

Covid-19 stems ‘white’ gold rush

The pandemic hit abalone farmers fast and hard. Prices have dropped and backers appear to be losing their appetite for investing in the delicacy

Companies need to plan for the future through skills development

COMMENT: Businesses need to focus on the training the so-called soft skills needed to respond to an ever-changing environment

Shadow of eviction looms over farm dwellers

In part two of a series on the lives of farm dwellers, Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni finds a community haunted by the scourge of eviction

God just got his hand back

Diego Armando Maradona, the greatest footballer to wear the number 10 jersey, has left the field
Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

More top stories

‘Where the governments see statistics, I see the faces of...

Yvette Raphael describes herself as a ‘professional protester, sjambok feminist and hater of trash’. Government officials would likely refer to her as ‘a rebel’. She’s fought for equality her entire life, she says. And she’s scared of no one

Covid-19 stems ‘white’ gold rush

The pandemic hit abalone farmers fast and hard. Prices have dropped and backers appear to be losing their appetite for investing in the delicacy

Al-Shabab’s terror in Mozambique

Amid reports of brutal, indiscriminate slaughter, civilians bear the brunt as villages are abandoned and the number of refugees nears half a million

South Africa’s cities opt for clean energy

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions will hinge on the transport sector
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…