[imagesource: Office of Councillor Zahid Badroodien]
South Africa is a country divided by extreme inequality.
This means that when the country went into 21 days of lockdown, keeping everyone quarantined was going to be a difficult undertaking, especially when it comes to those who live on the streets.
Providing the homeless with tent villages is one of the measures in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus. At the same time, it’s difficult to ignore the implications of forcing a group of people into living conditions that they didn’t necessarily consent to.
In Cape Town, two sites were identified, one in the CBD under the Nelson Mandela Boulevard overpass on the Foreshore, and another in Strandfontein at the Strandfontein Sports Grounds, where the homeless could be housed during lockdown.
Hundred of homeless were taken there by bus, and not all of them were happy with their new accommodations.
Then, reports GroundUp, things got heated in Standfontein when a protest broke out at the Sports Grounds.
Homeless people […] were shot at with rubber bullets by police after they began to protest about conditions at the tent camp set up as part of the national lockdown to disrupt the spread of Covid-19.
The protest possibly broke out after some people who were moved to the camp demanded to be let out. Many people GroundUp spoke to said that they had not been properly fed and they did not have access to basic amenities.
A group of people broke down one of the fences. When police deployed rubber bullets, the protesters retaliated with rocks and stones.
Some of the protest action was recorded:
The people moved to the tent village were promised individual accommodations, food and warm sleeping conditions. Instead, as the weather changes, there is no social distancing inside the tents provided and people huddle together for warmth.
These occupants allegedly have limited access to water for hand washing and washing more generally.
Many of the people who arrived at the village were screened for COVID-19. Otherwise, no identifiable medical resources are available on-site, therefore those with chronic conditions like TB and HIV can’t access treatment.
Mayco Member for Safety and Security JP Smith released a statement on Tuesday afternoon:
“They were under the impression that they would be allowed to return to their areas after being screened at the site, and when it became clear that they were required to remain in Strandfontein, a few of them pulled down one of the internal fences and four climbed over the perimeter wall,” said Smith. “Three have since been apprehended.”
Smith made it clear that any person who leaves the site will be in violation of lockdown regulations and will be dealt with accordingly.
He reiterated that the City would provide the homeless with the necessary amenities.
The conditions in the tent villages are far from ideal, and we can only hope that the City remedies the situation soon.
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