OPINION: Media negligence and political opportunism continue to misinform the public

The City of Cape Town delivers mattresses at the Strandfontein camp. (City of Cape Town, Supplied)
The City of Cape Town delivers mattresses at the Strandfontein camp. (City of Cape Town, Supplied)

As a result of the health checks being provided, more than 800 homeless people have now benefited from the diagnosis of chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension that would otherwise have gone unchecked on the streets, writes Greg Wagner.



A column published on News24 by Wesley Seale, titled "The plight of the poor and destitute in a DA-run city", very conveniently left out the fact that Seale is a former African National Congress (ANC) policy co-ordinator.

Those at News24 should know this after they reported on Seale’s very violent and publicly shared work escapades at his former employer, the ANC.

You can read that article here.

Yet Seales’s column, in which more misinformation is peddled, is published as if it is written without bias.

Readers have the right to know the truth.

Seale’s opening line, which is a false narrative rolled out every time the ANC want to criticise the Democratic Alliance (DA), "If you are poor and destitute, the DA simply does not care about you," is a give-away on its political motives, yet News24 failed in their basic duty to keep their readers informed about who is making this baseless claim.

In the age of misinformation, it is vital that media houses undertake due diligence.

All the way from China (according to his incomplete by-line), Seale professes to be an expert on the Strandfontein temporary shelter being provided for the homeless during the nation-wide Covid-19 lockdown.

If it wasn’t so offensive to read this repeated misinformation , it would be amusing to note that Seal is now a partner in a misinformation tag-team with ANC MP Faiez Jacobs, the man he previously accused of having "punched him off a chair and kicked him repeatedly as he lay on the ground", with Jacobs reportedly shouting "jy vat my lankal vir 'n naai [you've treated me like a fucker for long enough].” (quoted directly from a News24 article)

These don’t sound like the kind of sources whose opinions one would expect to be published on important matters of public interest.

Without any evidence, Seale claims municipalities (read ANC municipalities) in other parts of the country care better for the homeless, the available evidence tells a different story.

Some of it can be found here "Homeless people accused of stripping hall they're housed at during lockdown" or PE shelters are potential death traps, homeless complain.

Many people who live on the streets have other underlying problems, such as severe addictions, which makes it doubly difficult to curtail their movement, as required during a lockdown.

Inevitably, every municipality has faced challenges in abiding by the Disaster regulations, and I am sure they have all tried their best under very difficult circumstances.

However, where other metros are fortunate, is that they do not have an opposition ANC and their fellow travellers, focusing attention on one specific site, purely on political grounds and against the available evidence.

Unlike Seale, I’ve actually been to the Strandfontein shelter, and while there is no question that the site faced some teething problems during the first few days in which it was set up, it is also the best run shelter site in the country.

The Mayor has repeatedly written about what we provide at the site.

Apart from three meals a day, with tea, coffee, juice and fruit and sandwiches in-between meals, the individuals at the shelter are given blankets, pillows and mattresses, there is a full medical service on site, staffed by at least 15 nurses, doctors, pharmacists and volunteers.

Isolation areas are set up for those who have tested positive for Tuberculosis or required further testing for Covid-19 after the screening process.

As a result of the health checks being provided, more than 800 homeless people have now benefited from the diagnosis of chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension that would otherwise have gone unchecked on the streets.

They are now enrolled for chronic medication.

So when Seale claims that “The DA will not listen to the experts now because the people needing attention are poor and destitute,” he clearly doesn’t know that the Strandfontein site is actually managed by The Haven Night Shelter, Ubuntu and Oasis, who are three of the most experienced NGOs who work with homeless individuals.

I would really urge you to read the facts about what is actually happening at the Strandfontein temporary shelter.

You can read the latest statement issued by Dan Plato, the Mayor of Cape Town, here, and you can read the Mayor’s column calling for political parties to stop politicising the matter and show some respect during a national crisis here.

You can also check the City of Cape Town’s Facebook page for a diagram showing all the false claims that have been made and the facts regarding the situations being misrepresented.

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

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