Attention All Media Houses: For Immediate Release

17 April 2020

IJR Media Statement: Regarding the Strandfontein Temporary Homeless Shelter

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation would like to express its concern about recent reports describing the resettlement of homeless people at a temporary shelter Strandfontein, Cape Town. The homeless population are a vulnerable group in normal times and, in times like these, they are even more so.  We have previously noted that the treatment of this group of people needs to promote dignity, respect and consideration for their physical and psychological wellbeing.  (https://www.ijr.org.za/2019/07/18/media-statement-ijr-condemns-the-criminalisation-of-poverty-in-cape-town/)

Concerns at the conditions at Strandfontein temporary shelter have been heightened by the rape of a teenage girl which allegedly took place at the shelter last week.  This is, once again, an indication of the vulnerability of women in our society, a deplorable lack of the provision of adequate resources to ensure the safety of those who are being housed the shelter.

In addition to the alleged rape incident, there are reports that the conditions themselves do not meet health standards and social distancing rules, further adding to the vulnerability of those who are presently housed at the shelter.  The shelter is intended as a refuge from the threat of the Covid-19 virus. Strandfontein cannot become a place where residents with compromised immune systems are disproportionately at risk of infection.

In addressing the SANDF on the eve of the lock-down, President Ramaphosa said: “I send you to protect our people against the coronavirus… It is a moment to protect our people”.  These words apply to all government institutions at this time.  There is a duty of care on the authorities to ensure that the rights, health and dignity of all South Africans irrespective of race, class and location are respected.  At the moment the Strandfontein Shelter is not meeting those standards.  As a country, we cannot allow the most vulnerable to be compromised.  We need to ensure that all sectors of society are afforded the opportunity to be treated with respect and dignity.

We would like to call on the authorities to make available all the resources necessary to ensure that safety and security are restored at the shelter.  We further call on the authorities to work with NGOs and other civil society organisations to help to provide assistance and care to those who are in the shelter and all temporary shelters established across South Africa, people’s rights are protected, and they are treated with respect and dignity.

For media enquiries, contact Sam Kambule skambule@ijr.org.za

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