Lockdown: Gauteng's homeless people 'have rights' and won't be forced into shelters - Lesufi

2020-03-27 12:12
Soldiers of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) escorts a homeless woman to a gathering point in the Johannesburg CBD. (Michele Spartari, AFP)

Soldiers of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) escorts a homeless woman to a gathering point in the Johannesburg CBD. (Michele Spartari, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Homeless people in Tshwane and Johannesburg will not be forced to move into shelters during the 21-day lockdown, according to Gauteng's acting social development MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

Lesufi visited both metros on Thursday evening to observe shelters' readiness to temporarily accommodate homeless people during the lockdown, which is aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

LIVE | Lockdown day 1: Joburg streets bare as South Africans heed the call to stay inside

He told News24 that homeless people would be able to decide whether they wanted to stay in shelters.

"Our view is that you don't have to force people; you have to respect their dignity. You might even feel that they are homeless, but they still have rights and still have dignity," Lesufi said.

"So, I said to the team: 'Let's ensure that we have facilities that can be ready to accommodate. But if people come there, they come voluntarily.'"

Lesufi added that the police and army should not be used to force homeless people to move into shelters, saying: "I really feel that it doesn't belong in a democratic state."

Right to decide

CORONAVIRUS FAQs | All your questions answered

Instead, facilities will be made available for the homeless community during the lockdown and they would have a right to decide on using them, Lesufi said.

"Even under lockdown, you still have rights. If they know the facilities are here, they will [come]."

It is estimated there are around 10 000 homeless people in Tshwane and around 15 000 in Johannesburg.

In terms of finding space for the homeless, Lesufi said they asked non-governmental organisations (NGOs) if they would be able to accommodate them.

If the NGOs do not have space to house everyone, then schools will be used as makeshift shelters, Lesufi added.

"We have a lot of schools that are closed, a lot of churches that are closed and a lot of hotels that are closed. But for now, our plans are based on two alternatives - the NGOs and the schools."

While Lesufi maintained that shelter placement would be optional for the homeless, gazetted regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act make provision for forced relocations during the lockdown.   

According to the regulations, for the period of the lockdown, anyone refusing to be evacuated from any place subject to lockdown, may be evacuated by an enforcement officer to a temporary shelter, if such action is necessary for the preservation of life.

For more on the lockdown and other stories listen to our podcast here on SoundCloud.

Stay up to date and stay healthy. Subscribe to Health24’s Daily Dose newsletter for important updates on the spread of the coronavirus. Register and manage your newsletters in the new News24 app by clicking on the Profile tab

Read more on:    panyanza lesufi  |  johannesburg  |  pretoria  |  coronavirus  |  lockdown

Inside News24

Lockdown For
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.