Groups want shelter to be closed

Homeless people, from areas like Culemborg and Muizenberg, are screened after they were bused in to Strandfontein sports field by the City of Cape Town this week.

Four Strandfontein civic groups are demanding that Mayor Dan Plato and the City of Cape Town shut down their temporary shelter for homeless people at the local sports field immediately.

On Saturday April 18, the City received a letter of demand from lawyer Vernon Seymour, on behalf of Strandfontein Ratepayers’ Association and Strandfontein Social and Economic Forum citing the shelter as a health risk.

Strandfontein Community Police Forum (CPF) chairwoman Sandy Schuter and Strandfontein Facility Management Committee (FMC) chairman Gerard Kemp laid charges at Strandfontein police station on Sunday April 19 against Mr Plato and City manager Lungelo Mbandazayo for allegedly flouting lockdown regulations by overcrowding the temporary shelter.

Due to their constitutions, the CPF and the FMC members cannot lay charges.

Mr Seymour told the Plainsman yesterday, Tuesday April 21, that they will be filing an application at the Cape High Court today, Wednesday April 22, compelling the City to decentralise the homeless shelter.

He said the City replied to their letter of demand but did not address their issues.

“Our clients instruct that concentration of hundreds of people who are likely to have acute medical needs, compromised immune systems, or are living with HIV and TB (tuberculosis), will in all likelihood result in a rapid spread of the coronavirus, in violation of the Covid-19 regulations issued under Section 27 (2) of the Disaster Management Act as amended,” read the letter. They said the site failed to comply with the Covid-19 regulations and that its establishment was “simply irrational”.

“Our client instructs that they have received a medical opinion that if anyone were to test positive for the coronavirus, the chances for on-site medical staff detecting it early, are small, whereas the risk for transmission to many others is very high due to gross overcrowding at the Strandfontein shelter.”

The residents are concerned that the virus may spread in the camp and then to the neighbouring community.

They demanded that the City close the site within seven days of the letter’s date and respond to the letter by Monday April 20.

“Please be advised that we hold instructions to approach the Cape High Court and seek appropriate relief in the event the City Council refuses to comply with our clients’ demand,” read the letter.

Mario Oostendurp, chairman of the association, and Amanda van Willingh, secretary of the forum, also filed criminal charges against Mr Plato and submitted affidavits at Strandfontein police station on Sunday April 19.

Ms Van Willingh said Mr Plato as mayor had given sign-off to establish a homeless shelter at the sports field, which is a violation of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations. “The mayor and the City Council does not have the right to do as they please. They have to follow the law and comply with the lockdown regulations,” read her statement.

Both of them requested that the police investigate the unlawful actions of the City.

In his statement, Mr Oostendurp takes City manager Lungelo Mbandazayo to task for his hand in the setting up of the camp.

He said the manager had failed to comply with the lockdown regulations and should be held accountable for his actions.

Both their statements reflect the contents of the lawyer’s letter to the City. Spokesman for Mr Plato, Lyndon Khan, said the mayor’s office had not been notified of the charges.

“We note the constant politicisation of this matter, which is shameful during a national crisis where every effort is being made to protect and assist residents,” he said.

Richard Bosman, executive director for safety and security, confirmed receipt of the letter and that the City responded on Monday April 20.