The City of Cape Town has denied accusations from a community activist that it destroyed street people’s shelters at Town Centre.
Pastor Dean Ramjoomia, from Nehemiah Call Initiative, sent the Plainsman videos and photographs that showed City Law Enforcement officers, accompanied by a truck with a mounted mechanical claw, clearing piles of cardboard, plastic, wood and fabric and broken furniture along First Avenue and Third Avenue, in Eastridge, on Wednesday March 15.
The Plainsman has previously seen people living in makeshift shelters fashioned from these materials at the site, but Law Enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason said: “No structures were destroyed. Discarded plastic and cardboard were removed with the owner’s consent.”
He claimed the City had not needed to serve anyone with a notice of eviction as no eviction had taken place and no-one’s belongings had been removed.
“The City’s social development and early childhood development department conduct ongoing outreach work, offering alternative shelter and other forms of assistance. These offers are voluntary and no one can be compelled to accept assistance,” he said.
However, Mr Ramjoomia said seven people’s homes were “indiscriminately destroyed”, and a further five shelters had been destroyed opposite the day hospital and another two on the field along Wespoort Drive.
“No eviction notice was served, and I specifically asked for it, and with abuse, they gave no answer while continuing with this illegal and unlawful action,” he said.
Mr Ramjoomia said Law Enforcement officers at the scene had told him they were responding to a complaint from the public.
“I regard it as an alleged claim, and no proof was given to us, the public, of actual evidence of a complaint,” he said. “That’s just a smokescreen for their ongoing onslaught against our people.”
Nehemiah Call Initiative, a civil society organisation, helps street people and works with U-turn Homeless Ministries, a non-government organisation supporting the homeless.
“Nehemiah Call Initiative demands that the City stop their illegal and unlawful operations and end human rights violations against people living on the streets across Mitchell’s Plain, which is in contravention of the Bill of Rights. While they break the law with impunity, they shout and scream at others to act lawfully,” said Mr Ramjoomia.
Danielle Louw, an attorney from activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi, said the City needed to follow the lawful eviction process and offer people alternative accommodation before starting eviction proceedings.
Those who had had their shelters destroyed and belongings confiscated were entitled to reclaim them from the City or claim compensation from the City for the violation of their rights.
“They can also open a charge of unlawful eviction with SAPS,” she said.