“You will be skopped and donnered if you venture into the streets during this 21-day lock down period,” warned Limpopo MEC for Social Development, Nkakareng Rakgoale during her visit to Jetty 3 in Tzaneen where a temporary shelter has been setup for the homeless.

The department of social development is involved at the site along with the local municipality, the department of health and the local police force. Social development visited the site to ensure that enough food would be provided and accommodation would be provided to the homeless people who will be housed here temporarily.

The site was identified by the District Municipality in conjunction with the local Tzaneen municipality. The Jetty 3 temporary shelter accommodates 72 homeless people, most of them male.

The matter raised several eyebrows yesterday (Friday 27th of March) when initial word was spread among the residents neighbouring the Jetty 3 site. No official communication was released from local government to the media to inform the communities in the area what was happening.

“I looked out of my window and all I saw were tents being erected and a lot of vehicles coming in and out of Jetty 3,” said one resident of the area. “We are in lockdown and I thought it was strange to see so much movement. I noticed the ANC jackets and thought there was some kind of gathering being planned. It was only when I asked what was going on over WhatsApp, that I finally received an answer.”

According to the DA ward councillor for this area (Ward 14 which is run by the DA), Pierre Cronje, neither he nor his ward committee was informed of, or included in the planning of this emergency measure.

The local government established this site to remain in line with national government’s commitment to ensure that the homeless communities remain isolated and off the streets during the 21-day national lock down as part of the efforts to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

There are a number of municipal-owned sites around the Greater Tzaneen Municipality that were looked at as possible sites to use for the establishment of the temporary site, but given the nature and the urgency of the situation, and the central location, Jetty 3 was identified as the most viable.

“This outbreak is a learning curve for all of us. At times decisions need to be made at a whim and in those cases, it may be necessary to circumvent the usual protocols and meetings, in order to address the emergency,” explained Thapelo Matlala, the GTM’s municipal manager. “We looked at various possibilities, but we needed to make a call quickly in order to stop this virus from spreading. We have a responsibility along with the rest of the nation, to take any measures to ensure the safety of all our citizens. This includes the most vulnerable, such as the homeless.”

DA Constituency head and Member of Parliament, Desiree van der Walt was the first to respond to the community’s call and when Bulletin arrived on site yesterday, she was already addressing a member of the Mopani District disaster management team. “To me, isolating the homeless is definitely something that needs to happen, but surely we could have worked to find a better solution that would provide these people with safer and more humane living arrangements?” she asked.

“To house all these people in this cold and rainy weather next to a dam, in tents, without proper ablution facilities is very inhumane and could have a negative impact on their health. What happens if one of these homeless people is already infected? How will we be able to keep these people from moving in and out of Jetty 3 and spreading the virus? The security here is not going to be enough. Remember too that these people will now be exposed to the elements here next to the dam including the wildlife and the illegal fishermen who are said to live in the surrounding bushes.”

The tents, matresses and blankets were all supplied by the Mopani District’s disaster management team. According to spokesperson for social development, Witness Tiva, the department will cook meals daily for these homeless people. “We will provide them with three meals per day which will be cooked offsite and delivered to the shelter. There are 10 tents erected and we will work together with the other stakeholders to ensure that the men are placed inside these tents correctly so that social distancing will not be compromised.”

The Greater Tzaneen Municipality Mayor, Maripe Mangena and the Tzaneen SAPS Cluster Commander, Gnl Maggie Mathebula also addressed the occupants at the shelter. The police along with the security of the Jetty 3 site, will control the movement of the people and ensure that they do not leave the premises. Law enforcement at the site will their responsibility.

Many concerns have been raised and many questions still remain unanswered, but Bulletin will keep an eye on the situation and report on any developments through our regular updates. Like and follow our page on Facebook in order to receive notifications each time we post a new story, video or gallery.

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