Shame on them

Liz Futeran, Wynberg

The temporary homeless shelter at Strandfontein has dominated media coverage for weeks.

Publishing houses have demonstrated an eagerness to print the increasingly sensationalist remarks of every self-styled activist and opposition politician as they fall over themselves to outdo each other.

Describing the emergency accommodation, which provides hot showers, regular meals, drug and alcohol rehabilitation support, and medical attention (which these individuals would never otherwise have received) as a “concentration camp” might be laughable if it weren’t such distasteful and opportunistic nonsense.

Shame on those with very obvious political agendas who must surely have watched the fallout with some satisfaction as their comments stoked outrage in both mainstream and social media.

The City’s attempts to explain the level of care being given to homeless people on site, and the fact that individuals are free to leave if they so wish, were no match for the chorus of outrage among overnight activists whose appetite for a narrative of horror and human rights violations is far greater than one of the banal reality of trying urgently to manage unprecedented circumstances with limited resources.

I read these media reports while diligently observing the lockdown regulations in my home.

But at the traffic lights not 100m from my gate, a sizeable crew of street folk continues to hold all-day panhandling parties in clear contravention of the lockdown, with seeming impunity.

This particular traffic light happens to be midway between the Wynberg police station and military base.

In between obstructing traffic and harassing motorists, the group huddles at very close proximity under the trees on the verge, where they possibly sleep at night. For almost a week a tent was erected in full view on Waterloo Road.

It’s also been business as usual every week, with the contents of my refuse bin being strewn all over the street.

A week ago my immediate neighbour escaped a life-threatening home invasion.

With a permanent presence of drifters in the area it is impossible to tell the benign from the dangerous.

Through this we have been denied the support of our neighbourhood watch.

It is in this context that I have watched the sorry Strandfontein saga unfold, including the rape that reportedly occurred there. While even one rape is always one too many, I can’t help but wonder what might have taken place among the camp residents had they continued to roam the streets, presumably with access to bootleg alcohol and drugs.

We have to hope that all 19 000 plus parolees about to be released at least have fixed addresses to go home to. How is the order of human rights decided in trying to find ways of controlling the spread of a deadly pandemic?

What would the repercussions be were all the camp residents to have no access to food and medical attention, a stark reality right now? The petty point-scoring and finger pointing sideshow of Strandfontein have been sickening.

Those instigating unrest and demanding closure should be offering solutions in a way that support rather than undermine the good intentions of the relevant authorities involved.

Let’s face it, all of us are struggling with rowing skills in the boats we suddenly find ourselves in. Beating each other with the paddles does not help.