Guest Column

OPINION | Why does the media continue to repeat old misinformation that has already been corrected?

2020-05-19 15:22
The Strandfontein temporary shelter has had an on-site medical facility staffed by at least 15 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and volunteers, says the writer.

The Strandfontein temporary shelter has had an on-site medical facility staffed by at least 15 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and volunteers, says the writer. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

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In a few months' time, when our lives hopefully return to some sense of normality, the political opportunists will have moved on from focusing on the City’s services being provided to the homeless.


Journalists like Saya Pierce-Jones must be commended for calling on the public to also play their part in helping those less fortunate in our communities.

Pierce-Jones's particular focus in her article is on the homeless community.   

The City of Cape Town provides a range of services to the homeless, including shelters; funding to NGOs who provide shelters; social services including drug rehabilitation support and family reunification; as well as job training and skills development programmes with the aim to assist homeless persons with finding meaningful employment.   

Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to have read about many of these programmes, which have been ongoing for years, and despite our efforts to communicate these, because no political party attacks these programmes and particular agenda-driven NGOs don’t complain about these services.

But during a nationwide lockdown when there is little news to report on that isn’t Covid-19 related, fertile ground has been created for misinformation and political opportunism to thrive - hence the ongoing misdirected attacks on the City’s efforts to support the homeless.   

While we have already corrected the misinformation being spread repeatedly, Pierce-Jones unfortunately repeats some of the false assertions in her opinion piece.

As a result, Pierce-Jones fails to base some of her statements on facts, and is unable to distinguish between the real experts and those with political motives when she bases her analysis on the outdated information of agenda-driven individuals.  

On the contrary to false allegations of a lack of medical care, the Strandfontein temporary shelter has had an on-site medical facility staffed by at least 15 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and volunteers.

Over 1 350 persons were provided with chronic and clinical treatment for conditions like TB, HIV, Diabetes, Depression, Hypertension and Epilepsy, while 272 people were tested for TB with 24 being placed on treatment in isolation facilities.   

Substance abuse education and awareness sessions were held with all 1 600 homeless persons through smaller group interactions.

A handful of individuals on site indicated that they went "cold turkey" and would be making use of the additional services that the City’s out-patient rehabilitation service provides.  

During the health consultations, many homeless persons requested that they be connected to the City’s Matrix® Clinics.

Others who have opted for shelter placement post the closure of Strandfontein, indicated that the continued substance abuse interventions offered by the City are a major factor supporting their decision to try and stay rehabilitated.   

See the video for feedback from one of the residents at the temporary shelter.

The City’s Street People Programme staff will continue to engage those who requested assistance to ensure that they remain focused and motivated.  So to claim that there weren’t any medical services or substance support services is just plain false.

But this will happen when you rely on reports from so called "independent" monitors who release reports to the media that are a month outdated and at no point were presented to the City so that we could engage and provide an update on how we had already addressed the concerns that had been raised.

The real experts who did not release any reports because they were too busy caring for the homeless at the site are the 15+ doctors and nurses as well as the NGO staff contracted to look after the homeless.  

Pierce-Jones makes further reference to the challenge of accommodating the homeless at the Strandfontein facility.

The fact is the site offered over 24 accommodation tents with mattresses and blankets with separate sleeping facilities provided for women who preferred this option, while families were placed in appropriate facilities, with no children on-site.   

The correct information has been exhaustively provided by the City of Cape Town time and again over recent weeks, but as some in the media continue to ignore these facts, we have to keep correcting them.   

Pierce-Jones raises the following question: "Now we need to ask ourselves why these stories of (sic) have suddenly gripped the nation…So why all this coverage now?"  

The short answer is political opportunism and a sensationalist media.   

In a few months' time, when our lives hopefully return to some sense of normality, the political opportunists will have moved on from focusing on the City’s services being provided to the homeless.

But the City of Cape Town will continue delivering its support and services that help reunite the homeless with their families, provide them with shelter, and job skills and training opportunities that helps them find employment.

Those stories will most likely not be carried in the media despite our best efforts to share them.   

So while journalists like Pierce-Jones should be commended for trying to draw attention to those most in need in our communities, journalists should also take more responsibility to report more accurately and not rely solely on the words of political opportunists who don’t bother with the facts and seek only to divide.  

- Greg Wagner, Spokesperson for Dan Plato, Executive Mayor of Cape Town 

Read more on:    city of cape town  |  pandemic  |  media  |  coronavirus
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