South Africa, Pretoria – No 2 Struben Street shelter for the homeless in the city centre have lost hope on promises of a better life made by the new MMC for Community and Social Development, Thabisile Vilakazi.
This was after Vilakazi visited the shelter last week on a mission to understand the needs of those living there. She told them her office was open whenever they needed her assistance.
As the former head of a Section 79 committee that oversaw the work of the department, Vilakazi is familiar with the terrible conditions that the homeless are subjected to at the shelter.
When the Pretoria News visited on Saturday, many inhabitants were wandering around the facility. Others passed the time drinking, while some injected themselves with nyaope.
They refused to be photographed, but they were eager to vent their frustrations because of empty promises previously made by government representatives.
“Look at those toilets. They have not been working forever. They are full of human waste,” one said.
They complained that from time to time politicians visited the shelter but left them with only empty promises.
In September, the MEC for Social Development, Dr Nomathembu Mokgethi, went there and told them the government had worked out an exit strategy that would see them being relocated to other shelters in the city.
Mokgethi said the government planned a phased closure of the facility, which would eventually be decommissioned after the lockdown.
Many occupants said nothing had happened since. Their chairperson, Solly Hadebe, said Vilakazi didn’t emphasise the relocation plan, saying it seemed like the government had forgotten about it.
“She was more interested in how we live in the shelter and our needs. We told her that previously the government was not taking care of us. That the dustbins were not collected properly.
“There was no cleaning material. She told us that she wants to assist us in whatever way,” Hadebe said.
Vilakazi promised them rubbish bags, which were delivered on Saturday.
Hadebe, who is wheelchair-bound, was unsure whether Vilakazi’s gesture was a ploy to attract them to vote in favour of her political party next year.
He bemoaned the fact that previous mayors had made promises to improve their lives, but never fulfilled them.
“She (Vilakazi) said she would be happy if they could take us somewhere because the place is not habitable for us. The people here are willing to move and allow this place to be renovated.” Vilakazi said: “It is alarming to note that during the time when the city was under the control of the ANC administrators the building was infiltrated by individuals who subverted its true intention and purpose – at times even intimidating and taking advantage of the vulnerable.”
She said the administrators had failed to act on Mokgethi’s instruction to decommission the facility, “and instead allowed conditions at the shelter to deteriorate further”.
“The City is embarking on a process of identifying individuals at the site considered to be vulnerable in order to assess their circumstances and provide the necessary assistance,” Vilakazi said.