It is Good Friday today. But very much the opposite of that in the Strandfontein sports facility where the homeless have been rounded up and moved.
“It is like a concentration camp!” – these are words i just heard from a social worker who has been volunteering in the encampment where tents have been erected and none of the physical distancing that we have all been called to do is happening at all. She also said that men and women are in the same place together and witnessed an incident where men were throwing stones at a woman.
And the rest of us continue to complain about how we can’t jog or walk our dog or that our wine supplies are getting low.
i have to hope this is because we don’t know. i have to hope that once we hear these stories and are aware how men and woman [created in the image of God, those of us who follow Jesus would believe] are being treated inhumanely, that we would make a noise and do whatever we can until it stops.
Because many people stayed silent during apartheid, which was arguably just as bad as perpetrating the evil.
We cannot afford to stay silent again.
The Western Cape ANC has had strong words against this ‘housing facility.’ Some of the push-back has been that it is not meant to be sutainable because it is only meant to be temporary but that feels like a lie. We saw this when the World Cup was hosted here and the homeless were rounded up and moved away in an effort to ‘clean up the city’. It is happening again and it is being kept secret and brushed over because the truth is so devastating.
Another article by Dan Meyer also refers to the facility as a concentration camp and speaks of the people there being herded like animals.
Brett Herron apparently described the scene he saw when he visited the site earlier this week as ‘heartbreaking, and harked back to scenes of humanitarian atrocities from history.’
Then there was this account from Toni Tresadern:
So, I went out to Strandfontein this morning to take food to the Bothasig homeless. I found them straight away and was appalled and saddened by what I saw and heard.
35 of the Bothasig homeless have been put in a tent with about 120 other homeless people from Brooklyn, Macasser, Milnerton, Sea Point and elsewhere.
They have no mattresses – were given 2 blankets when they arrived.
There is no basin in their tent.
They had to write their names down and a pic was taken of each person. Explanation was that Law Enforcement needed the pic in case they tried to escape (so they knew who to look for).
They were not COVID-19 screened, nor have any of the folk that have substance abuse issues been given any meds to help them come off the drugs/alcohol as was promised.
There is no toilet paper.
There is not enough food being given to the people and they are very hungry. Begged me for food.
They cannot sleep at night because the bright lights are on all night.
Private security is guarding the camp from the outside – they are fully armed and all over the dunes behind the tents.
There was a lot of crying and emotion displayed and all begged me to get them out of there.
Each tent has an official in charge of the group. Their official was there when they arrived and has not been seen since. They are unable to air their grievances.
There are also a number of videos on Tony’s Facebook page where you can listen directly to the homeless people speaking about the situation there.
Every person who has been to take a look [and is not trying to spin a story] has had similar things to say. Dehumanising, unsanitary, dangerous.
There is more i could say, but i want to keep this as brief as possible for now. The bottom line is we cannot celebrate Easter without acknowledging the death that is happening on our doorstep. We cannot sit by and be silent.
Time to make some noise!
i felt so completely helpless and overwhelmed last night and this morning when i was reading through the stories and watching the interview and the video. i don;t know what i can do, but i know that i can’t do nothing.
We have been fed lies about what is really happening with the homeless in Cape Town and we need to speak up and hold the DA and whoever else is involved accountable. i will hopefully be able to share an email later which you can forward to your ward counsellors and start providing some heat.
In the meantime what you can do is take a look and read – google ‘homeless Cape Town’ or go see what Toni Treasadern and Lorenzo Jacobs have been posting. And share this post and others on your social medias so that the noise level starts to rise on this.
How do we go ahead with the norms of celebrating Easter in the relative comfort of our lockdown situations while people are being treated like animals or worse. The cross demands we take action! Just being a human demands we take action!
EDIT: For a practical response you can now click here and send a letter to the people who need to hear. Please do!
EDIT: On the 13th of April i was given the opportunity to go to Strandfontein myself and see what is happening there and here are some of my reflections.