36-year-old man arrested for rape in controversial lockdown camp for Cape Town's homeless

Police at a roadblock in Khayelitsha. (Gallo Images, Brenton Geach)
Police at a roadblock in Khayelitsha. (Gallo Images, Brenton Geach)

A 36-year-old man has been arrested for the rape of an 18-year-old woman at the tent the city set up to shelter Cape Town's homeless on a sports field in Strandfontein during the country's Covid-19 lockdown.

"According to the victim, the incident occurred on Wednesday evening, but it was only reported on Friday night," police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk said.

The 36-year-old is expected to appear in the Mitchells Plain Magistrate's Court on Tuesday. 

The facility at Strandfontein has been bogged down in controversy for various reasons, which range from criticism directed at the City of Cape Town for the type of accommodation offered, to complaints from residents in the immediate vicinity who say they have not been consulted about the camp. 

It is on a sports field and critics say that it is not set up properly, has no beds and no proper ablution facilities.

The City of Cape Town said it was working with police to investigate the allegation.

"Any accusation of sexual assault is an incredibly sensitive matter and the City is doing everything possible to ensure that it is handled in a manner befitting the situation," Mayor Dan Plato said in a statement.

"I find it alarming that some political parties have already seized on the opportunity to turn this into a political matter," he said without naming parties.

Plato said that no facts had been determined yet as the investigation continues.

"I have called on the SAPS to conduct and conclude their investigation with urgency so that we can provide the facts to the public of Cape Town in an environment where half-truths and misinformation is being spread like wildfire."

He reiterated that the Strandfontein site was set up under the instruction of the national disaster regulations published by Cabinet, and the city has given extensive reasons for doing so.

It has also provided the city with an opportunity to screen homeless people for Covid-19 and tuberculosis, he said.

"Despite claims to the contrary, no person is kept on-site against their will, as has been proven by the relocation of a group back to Somerset West last week.

"The City is going to great lengths to ensure the wellbeing of those on-site, in accordance with the regulations of the disaster declaration," he added.

*This story has been updated with comment from the City of Cape Town.

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