City challenged on Green Point Safe Space

Pictured: The women’s section of The Haven Night Shelter in Green Point is a safe space off the streets for vulnerable persons. Photographer: Yazeed Kamaldien

Pictured: The women’s section of The Haven Night Shelter in Green Point is a safe space off the streets for vulnerable persons. Photographer: Yazeed Kamaldien

Published Mar 9, 2024


To say that I am shocked by the contents of my column this week, would be to put it very mildly.

Throughout the past two months leading up to the eviction by the City of those individuals at the 3 Anchor Bay Tennis Club, I have kept asking one question. And that question has been, what has happened to the mayor’s promise of a 300-bed safe space that would prioritise accommodating these individuals?

The mayor remained mum on my question and quite frankly the only response, although not made directly to me, was contained in the Nicola Jowell (Sea Point’s ward councillor) statement made after the final eviction. This particular statement was, according to her, meant to clear up some untruths that were being said about the City on social media.

Therein, she says that particular safe space (the first and only one proposed for the area) was never promised as an option for those at the encampment.

I could go back and prove her wrong with the positive comments I posted on both her page and that of the mayor, the day they posted news of this 300-bed safe space in Green Point. My only concern, at the time, was that after accommodating those at the tennis academy and other spaces in its immediate vicinity, it would still leave a great number of individuals living on the streets in the area.

But I didn’t have to go back and look for anything to contradict her statement because last week, I became aware of the fact that the City had in actual fact almost immediately after the court postponed the eviction, based on the City’s inability to house the residents, and the mayor’s sudden announcement of this new safe space, called for applicants to service the site.

This was done as far back as a year ago (very quietly, I might add) and the process was shut by April and a service provider awarded the contract, without any of this being known in the sector beforehand. This all seems to support the notion that this safe space was meant to be on fast track to be used as the City’s motivation for the eviction in court, where they had to convince a judge that they had sufficient and suitable accommodation for those they wanted to evict.

Cllr Jowell also says in her statement that the judge had not made the eviction at the tennis courts conditional to accommodation being provided. She conveniently forgets this process to evict began in 2021 and then, already, the court had sent the City back to engage with those at “Tent City” about “transitional accommodation”. Evictions are bound by the PIE (Prevention of Illegal Eviction) Act.

Hence, in every statement the mayor makes these days pertaining to their safe spaces, he refers to these entry phase, emergency and temporary shelters for those living on the streets as “transitional”.

Either the mayor is not aware of what the word means in this context or he is hoping the public doesn’t.

But let me get back to this appointment of a service provider. In October 2023, the City awarded the contract to act as service provider for (the still to this day unopened) safe space to Matdoc.

Matdoc is the service provider that without any experience in the sector, without being registered as an NGO and without being registered with the national supply chain, was awarded the first two contracts for the safe spaces.

Not only was this appointment controversial in how it was awarded, it was controversial in its value of close on R10 million a year, but even more so because only 11% of the total allocated per safe space was being used towards reintegrating and providing services to those living at these safe spaces, the balance and bulk of the awarded grant would go towards the management of the facility.

To make matters worse during its tenure as service provider to the City of Cape Town, Matdoc has often been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Serious complaints were lodged with both the City and the SAHRC, and their management of the facilities eventually became the basis of a demand by service providers that the City initiate an independent forensic investigation.

The City eventually conducted an internal forensic investigation and although having promised to share the outcome of the audit, to date none of us are any the wiser.

Despite all of this, the City has seen fit to appoint this questionable service provider as the service provider to a safe space that remains unopened. The value of the tender: R27 600 000!

The ratio towards social services and re-integration? Eleven percent of the total amount!

* Carlos Mesquita is a homeless activist and a researcher working in the Western Cape Legislature for the Good Party.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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