OPINION | Cape Town has led the way on caring for the homeless

The Culemborg site in the Cape Town CBD,
The Culemborg site in the Cape Town CBD,
Bertram Malgas, News24

We’re the only local authority which offers a comprehensive service package to the homeless, including EPWP work opportunities, reintegration and a host of other opportunities, writes Zahid Badroodien.


The City of Cape Town will continue to play our part in caring for the homeless community, despite ongoing political attacks against us by the local ANC and related groupings.

Much of the misinformation being spread has found its way into media reports and so as Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Services and Health, I would like to set out some facts.

While local governments hold no direct mandate over homelessness or shelters, the City has been at the forefront of caring for this community during the State of Disaster.

Together with the existing shelter network, Cape Town has achieved the country’s highest service reach into the homeless community under Level 5 lockdown regulations, which required the evacuation of homeless to temporary facilities.

In response, our metro offered shelter to roughly double the number of homeless persons compared to the whole of Gauteng. This is according to the national Department of Social Development’s 23 April report to Parliament.

By initially concentrating our limited City resources at the Strandfontein Temporary Shelter, the following was made possible:

  • 1 352 homeless persons provided with chronic treatment for TB, HIV, Diabetes, Hypertension and Epilepsy.
  • 272 people tested for TB with 24 on treatment and isolated
  • 1 858 people screened for Covid and 66 tested and isolated
  • Over 120 people reunited with family due to reintegration services
  • 4 500 meals issued daily to homeless persons at the facility
  • 2 000 mattresses and blankets distributed to every person
  • Psycho-social services for substance users as part of the rehab process

The Strandfontein facility has since been de-commissioned having served its temporary purpose.

Amendments to national regulations also now mean that municipalities can no longer evacuate homeless persons to shelters.

As such, the City and NGO Partners have assisted with shelter placement for every homeless person at the Strandfontein facility who was willing to accept this offer.

Despite our efforts, the City has been under consistent attack by organisations who have used the homeless community as a political football to score cheap points.

Various attempts at lawfare have been waged by the Strandfontein Ratepayers Association, Ndifuna Ukwazi, the South African Human Rights Commission, Lawyers for Human Rights, Women’s Legal Centre and most recently law-firm, Dingley Marshall.

In each matter, the court has either postponed indefinitely, or is yet to make a ruling.

But every time, the court has reaffirmed the City’s original intentions to offer shelter placement for the homeless at various smaller facilities across the metro.

The City welcomes the latest of these rulings, in which Western Cape High Court order aligns perfectly with the City’s decommissioning plans for the temporary Strandfontein Shelter.

We also note that lawyers withdrew their representation of the so-called “Homeless Action Committee”, following consistent untruths about shelter and quarantine opportunities that the City has offered to them.

The withdrawal notably occurred prior to the order being signed by the judge, and not after, as incorrectly reported in media.

The “Homeless Action Committee” forms part of a group of persons currently camping at Culemborg in the Cape Town CBD.

This group have steadfastly refused our assistance to help them into smaller shelters - a service that thousands of other homeless individuals have gladly accepted.

All those who accepted the offer of shelter, have been transferred to smaller facilities for focused care and personal development opportunities.

The City’s Street People Unit is on hand to facilitate shelter placement for any homeless person at Culemborg who has changed their mind about refusing shelter.

Our NGO partners remain ready to welcome them at the Haven Night Shelter, Oasis Reach for Your Dream, Ubuntu Circle of Courage, TASP and the Cape Flats YMCA.

The City is committed to providing services to the most vulnerable among us.

We’re the only local authority which offers a comprehensive service package to the homeless, including EPWP work opportunities, reintegration and a host of other opportunities.

As for the ANC’s poor effort to find relevance in fear-mongering around our vulnerable homeless community, I won’t be dragged into the politics of a stale opposition within the city.

It is shameful that the ANC has staged a racial attack on me by publicly insisting that I am incapable of making sound and logical decisions in the best interests of all of our communities.

No matter how much the ANC hurls racial insults at me, I will remember my mother’s family that was forcefully removed from District Six by the apartheid government.

I will remember my father who works from 6am to 6pm every day to look after his family. And I will especially remember my Mother who worked two jobs to make sure that every one of her children had access to a decent education so that we could access the opportunities my parents never had.

While we all continue to deal with the legacy of the past, I will not allow my contributions to our City to be shackled by the ANC’s apartheid mentality and hateful outlook on the world.

- Cllr Zahid Badroodien, Community Services & Health MMC

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