Strandfontein Homeless Committee Takes on City of Cape Town

Date: 19/05/2020

On Monday 18 May 2020, the Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee (SHAC), represented by Lawyers for Human Rights, initiated legal proceedings against the City of Cape Town.

The SHAC seeks respect for the basic human rights of its members, including being consulted on their future accommodation and ability to protect themselves in the face of the COVID-19 threat.

The SHAC represents the interests of 162 homeless people who were rounded up by police at the start of the nationwide lockdown and transported to the notorious Strandfontein camp, a tented facility set up by the City of Cape Town in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The South African Human Rights Commission has documented a slate of concerns about conditions of the camp, including inadequate bedding, hygiene, severe restrictions on movement and the inability to social distance.

At the end of April 2020, the SHAC learned that the City intended to close Strandfontein camp by 20 May 2020.

Over the last two weeks, LHR and the SHAC have attempted to engage with the City, to learn the details of the decommissioning plan for the camp and those of the “smaller decentralised” sites to which the City proposes to move the homeless persons still in Strandfontein, including the services that will be available. The affected residents have been kept completely in the dark, with the City refusing to provide any assurances about whether the new sites will be COVID-19 safe, how they will get there, and what services will be provided.

“The residents of The Haven tent #2 at Strandfontein feel as if the City is once again throwing the baby out with the bath water. They made promises to us, prior to bringing us to this camp. Now that challenges have arisen and they have had to change their plan of action with regards housing the homeless, our voices have again not been heard, despite it being our lives that are being affected,” said Carlos Mesquita, spokesperson for the Committee.

“We’re disappointed in the City’s failure to engage with our clients about such basic information as where they will be living, whether they will be able to protect themselves from COVID-19, or even access basic rights like food and water, and medical care,” said Sanja Bornman, Lawyers for Human Rights attorney.

The SHAC says its constituents are resistant to moving unless the City gives certain basic assurances and undertakings about what awaits them at the next City-led site.

The recently launched legal proceedings seek these commitments.

For further information please contact:

Sanja Bornman, Lawyer for Human Rights Attorney,, +27 83 522 2933

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