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City, State and community in stand-off over homeless move amid covid-19 lockdown

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The City of Cape Town and the national government are in a feud over where to house refugees that have been squatting in the Cape Town CBD since October last year. A number of foreign nationals occupied the UNHRC building in Greenmark Square to demand that they are repatriated to other countries as they fear xenophobia in South Africa. After moving to the Central Methodist Church closeby, where some refugees had chosen to live in the streets, most of them have been removed to places of shelter. These temporary shelters were set up to accommodate displaced or homeless people during the national 21-day lockdown instated by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a bid to curb the possible spread of the coronavirus.

This week it emerged the refugees is being transported to site in Painty City Bellville and one in Maitland off Voortrekker Road. However, the dputy chairperson Kenfac Ratepayers Association Dawood Essack said that a third party has also been affected by the move and that residents of the surrounding areas had not been consulted prior to the move of the refugees to Voortrekker road.

“We saw the ground being cleared in Voortrekker road in an area that is called Wingfield and that land that is being cleared is owned by Ndabeni Trust, which is private land,” said Essack.

Essack claimed that only after the chairperson of Kenfac Ratespayers Association called the councilor, residents were made aware.

“We were in prior covid-19 response team meetings with our councilor and she never mentioned a thing to us,” stated Essack.

Following this information, the Kenfac Ratespayers Association sprung into action and a meeting was hosted by Mayor Dan Plato.

Essack also stated that the displeasure of the move has nothing to do with xenophobia.

“For the record let me state that Kensington and Factreton has never had a single xenophobic attack, even from our masjied, our pulpit, we speak about it that these are people in our country and we need to respect them and that’s been the situation in Kensington so this has nothing to do with xenophobia and that has to be put on the table,” said Essack.

During the meeting with the Mayor it was said that the land at Wingfield was designated for homeless in the surrounding areas.

“The Mayor gave us a clear undertaking that the refugees has been moved to Paint City,” stated Essack.

“He said absolutely none of the refugees will be moved there,” he added.

According to Essack, the Mayor also made mention of the climatic change that could have an adverse effect on the durability of the land.

“If you go that piece of the land that has been cleared, if it rains it is going to be a quagmire,” said Essack.

However, the head of the City’s directorate for Safety and Security Alderman JP Smith has stated that Wingfield was always going to be the place designated for the refugees.

“The Mayor may well have misspoken himself, I am in no way contradicting the mayor I am just repeating the facts as I am aware of them,” said Smith.

But in a hard-hitting statement this week, the Minister of Public Works Patricia De Lille set the record straight. She explained that an agreement was reached by Mayor Dan Plato and her during an on site visit together that the Bellville Paint City site was for the non-nationals and the portion of Wingfield (Erven 167613, RE 149174 and 167614 Goodwood), plus Erven 110472, 110473 and 110474 Cape Town, were for the homeless of Cape Town and for the overflow of non-nationals that could not be accommodated on the Bellville site.

“I am extremely disappointed that in this time of crisis the basic humanity and upholding the principles of the Constitution of South Africa have been tossed aside by the City of Cape Town, in order to facilitate a selfish land-related agenda. This is not in any way acting in good faith. I am also aware that your agreement with me, Mr Mayor, was overruled by Alderman Nielson and Alderman JP Smith,” said De Lille.

Smith added that the City is taking national government to court for interfering with their plans for the homeless.

“We have since declared and intergovernmental dispute in other words we’re taking national government to court for having taken the refugees to Paint City,” said Smith.

It is alleged by Smith that Paint City, a plot in Bellville was in fact the designated site by the city for homeless people in the surrounding areas.

“Paint city is not a short term intervention it is not just here for the Covid thing, Paint City is a long term intervention…it’s forever,” ended Smith.



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