As the South African Human Rights Commission steps into the Strandfontein homeless camp saga, the Daily Voice can also reveal that one person has died at the settlement that was set up on Sunday.
A total of 1496 people are being accommodated on the sports field along Spine Road during the national lockdown.
The SAHRC became involved after chaos broke out at the camp on Tuesday when four people tried to escape.
Three of the homeless, from Somerset West, were caught while one is on the run.
Videos of dozens of homeless people attempting to flee and apparently hurling stones at Law Enforcement officials went viral on social media.
Homeless trying to flee Strandfontein site. Video Genevieve Serra
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith denied reports of arson at the camp, or that some homeless people had made holes in the fence to escape.
He said the four escapees were under the impression they would only be screened for the Coronavirus, and became angry when they learnt they would not be returned to their areas.
Community leaders have accused the City of building a “concentration camp”, and said many are now at risk as it emerged some of the homeless people suffer from tuberculosis.
On Wednesday, SAHRC commissioner Reverend Chris Nissen did a site inspection and found many shortcomings, among them a lack of mattresses and shower facilities.
SAHRC commissioner Reverend Chris Nissen did a site inspection. Video Genevieve Serra
Initially, the City planned to host 2000 homeless people at the camp, but a decision was made to stop the influx due to some testing positive for TB.
Mayco Member for Community Services and Health Councillor Zahid Badroodien confirmed a person has died at the camp, but would not divulge any details.
He would also not confirm or deny whether some people had TB.
“Any medical information is confidential and the City is not at liberty to make this public,” he said.
“No one has tested positive for Covid-19.
“After screening, the site will be serviced once a week by a mobile clinic for health promotion, TB medication, ART medication, Chronic Dispensing Unit, family planning, and immunisation for infants.”
RISK: Homeless people at the Strandfontein Sports Ground
On Wednesday, Nissen told the media he was happy with the food, sleeping arrangements and toilet facilities, but called for more mattresses and buckets for disabled mense to use to wash themselves as there are no shower facilities for them.
“There are some of them who say they are happy and some who have withdrawal symptoms, (from going) cold turkey,” he said.
“The aggression level is high. There are some who say they were not on the street and do have a home address.
“We need to engage with social development on how to deal with this. There can be reintegration to go back home.”
Nissen said many people were angry and wanted to know when they could go home, but he explained that the camp has been set up to help fight Covid-19.
Nissen said many people were angry. Video: Genevieve Serra
“We need to do what we need to do to stop the virus, but to do it in a humane way.”
He added that life in the camp would be an adjustment for the homeless who were used to their freedom: “They have been skarreling for themselves, they have been defending their own space and now they are confined.
“In one tent there was music, mini football and dominoes, that helps to bring down the level of aggression.”
Nissen will also be engaging with the City after the media was barred from entering the facility: “It is important that the media be given transparency.”
But Mario Oostendurp, of the Strandfontein Ratepayers Association, likened the set-up to Auschwitz, the German concentration camp.
Strandfontein site likened to Auschwitz, the German concentration camp
“The City thinks we are just worried about the field, but these are people, not dogs,” he says.
“We were promised feedback daily on the operational plans.
“A lot of the people inside have tested positive for TB.
“JP Smith failed us, this is another Auschwitz. People thought they were just being screened.
“Now they walk around with big guns. Who is the enemy here?”
Ward Councillor Elton Jansen has washed his hands of the debacle, claiming he was not part of the planning.
UNINFORMED: Cllr. Elton Jansen
“When I heard about this move last week Monday, I was informed of the decision and I said to Councillor Zahid Badroodein, I need to consult with my community and now there is a lockdown, I cannot hold a public meeting,” the councillor says.
“It is a sports field, it is cold, they are going to be housed in big tents.”
But Badroodien said: “We would like to reiterate that no one is being held against their will at the site. However, according to SAPS, any person who leaves the site will be in violation of the national lockdown regulations and will be dealt with accordingly.”