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Minutes of the Meeting on Displaced People 26 October

Public Meeting: Displaced persons

26 October 2016

Rosebank Union Church

 

Participants:

Councillors:

Martin Williams (ward 90) and Chair of the meeting

Vincent Earp (ward 103)

David Potter (ward 102)

Mike Wood ( ward 104)

Members of the Mayoral Committee:

Anthony Still MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services

Dr Mpho Phalatse MMC for health and social development

 

Members of the Security forces:

Vincent Hlongwane (SAPS)

Joe Sebola (JMPD)

 

Members of the affected communities

Refer to attendance register for names and addresses

 

Introductions and opening

  • MW opened the meeting and introduced the councillors and members of the Mayoral committee in attendance.
  • He explained that the purpose of the meeting was to secure input from the residents regarding the issues surrounding displaced and homeless people living in the area
  • The meeting had been called pursuant to a request from the mayoral committee who required the communities' input for purposes of determining a strategy to best manage the increased number of  displaced people in the area
  • Each councillor would provide feedback regarding their observations of the impact and effect of the homeless persons in their wards and thereafter the residents would be requested to provide their opinions, queries and proposals. During this process MW urged all residents to remain calm and contain their emotions so that the meeting could be constructive and obtain the necessary input from residents.

Overview of Ward 103 by Vincent Earp

  •  VE said that the council knows that there is a problem. It needs to properly understand  the extent of the problem and how it affects the residents.
  •  VE said that what we know is that the  riverine areas, private land,  and parklands have been overrun with vagrants and homeless people. It is imperative that we enforce our bylaws or we will destroy out wetlands.
  • There is a large  population of  homeless all along the spruit  and in ward 103 it is estimated that they  have about 1000 homeless people 
  • There is also  a criminal element amongst the homeless as we see that there are stolen items in their settlements
  • As a result,  people are afraid to walk in the areas, the area is littered with recycled items and the parks are not secure. Boundary fences are broken and residents  are wary to take their children to the park
  • As councillors they do not believe that there is a short term solution. All that happens with a raid is to displace homeless for one area to another and the problem remains.
  • The problems arise from various factors such as unscrupulous construction companies who pay too little to their workers and so people live in public area so as to avoid the cost of transport to work. There is also the issue of  foreign nationals living in the area.
  • Residents in his ward have sought to reclaim their public areas by cleaning up,  cutting down overgrown vegetation and removing litter

Overview of ward 102 by David Potter

  • DP stated that VE had summarised the issues that faced his ward too. They can only be repeated.
  •  He highlighted that the DA has been in government for 65 days. One cannot expect change to be immediate but the DA plans to make a change.
  • Ward 102 is the area from William Nicol to Jan Smuts and includes Delta Park
  •  The issues surrounding the homeless are both economic and social

Overview of ward 90 by Martin Williams

  •  MW commenced by thanking all of those  involved in clean-up of George Lea park (GL)
  •  The clean-up was only possible as a result of co0operation across many city departments and thanks should be extended to Kate Wardle of the Parkmore residents' association as well as the former ward councillor now MMC for environment, Antony Still
  • However ward 90 Is now dealing with the repercussions from the clean-up of GL. The result is that Hurlingham  Park now under attack. We know about this and dealing with this on a daily basis.

 

Input and proposals by MMC Anthony Still

  • AS introduced Dr Mpho Phalatse MMC for health and social development and explained that she had been involved in assisting and assessing the homeless problems
  •  He said that he knows about the issues surrounding GL park and the clean-up as he  was involved 
  • He is also aware that the result was people displaced onto the new areas. However, one cannot  blame people for doing something. One cannot  work on the basis that we will do nothing until the whole problem resolved. 
  • He is aware of the "trolley brigade" issues. He is convinced that a solution requires input from purchasers of waste and for that reason he spent half a day with Pikitup yesterday and will spend time with the buyers of waste shortly. He said that he is convinced of the following- we must tie the waste reclaimers into any solution we propose to achieve a win-win solution for all.
  • He said that he has a vision that the city will start providing spaces for organized collections  and sorting. These would be made  available on a concession basis to recyclers for a specific area
  •  What is needed is a storage, sorting and selling facility. The purchasers of waste can buy the waste from these areas and pay the recyclers directly. There could also be cashless ways to do this. The area must be fenced and have a toilet and it must be a prerequisite that the persons holding the concession may not sleep there. He said that he believes that the recyclers will be happy to leave their trolleys if they can leave their collected waste safely.
  • This is a win-win solution that will allow recyclers to collect more and receive more. The recycler who wins the concession sells to the waste industry. We want to see if we cannot start this model next year. It would have to start as a pilot project and can then be rolled out if it works.
  •  The quid pro quo of the proposal is that from a moral point of view one is justified in being tougher on the reclaimers and evicting them from the river areas.
  •  He said we know that need more homeless shelters. Dr Phalatse is seeking spaces for homeless shelters, but this is not easy. A foreign national without papers can't go to a city run shelter
  • However, the fact is the people had a place to stay before they lived on the river. He is accordingly solidly of the conviction that we must turn the tide of people sleeping in open spaces. If not then we must give up and accept that open spaces are places for people to live in, as one seeks in Kolkata where every open space is slept in 
  •  Accordingly we as a community must decide on a policy to accept that and enforce it. Not an easy task but we need to mark a plan

Overview by Dr Mpho Phalatse

  • MP is a medical doctor. She is the new MMC for health and social development.  She has been involved in GL park, she has engaged with Pasteur Ndaba of the RUC who offers support to certain of the homeless and she has been to the homeless shelters in Rosebank
  • She said that as social development, they understand  the  position and frustration of the affected residents and they are committed to solve the problem. Today is exactly 2 months since they were appointed.  The city has many different problem across the breadth of the city but she has been to the GL park and seem what is happening there. This area is however not an isolated case. There are many areas where there are the same issues.  We are committed to coming up with solutions. She said that she had heard a very disturbing rumour about suing the city. This would be short-sighted as it would divert our attention from dealing with issues to dealing with a law suit
  •  She explained that different MMC's have met- including community development,  infrastructure and environment and public security. It was a constructive meeting. It was concluded that if we don't work together we don't win
  • We worked with Lesotho consultant and home affairs to try to get documents for as many people as possible. It is only with documents that these people can be assisted at shelters. They visited the area on numerous occasions and on evenings and weekends to meet with the affected persons with the aim  to offer some shelter. 
  •  As MMC still says we don't have enough shelters. Only 2 months in office and this does not happen over night. Shelters are also not part of the previous governments' budget but shelters are part of our plans and will be included in next budget. What is needed is patience and understanding. Each MMC dealing with their part for a long term solution so it is resolved once and for all

Comments from residents

MW then invited residents to make their contribution.

Matthew Shelly from Bryanston- do Lesotho nationals stay in shelters?

MP- only if documented. 

MW- more the half of the people had no documentation and most said don't want documents or shelter and will move to Hurlingham Park which is precisely what they did.

James Oppenheimer - Stafford crescent. Total garage had to keep the grass area as a park land. The people use the area now for water and can buy bread etc 

Used to be Eskom's job to keep this clean. Now city parks do this but haven't done so. We have heaps of people there now and it is dangerous. JMPD  came and burnt the area and left. Beyond frustrating. 

Aisha - Hurlingham Manor-  she has been engaging with owners at Stafford park. Most of people from Lesotho. Engaged with consulate. He made promises and nothing materialized. Am I right to say MMC have a responsibility towards the citizens? They must be part of the solution. There are not enough shelters. The police burn documents and she has evidence of this. Mary Gillett-de Klerk from Josh has a great plan for a shelter. But no one wants it on their doorstep. In Sasolburg municipality they have an excellent programme with recyclers. 

Bruce van Halderen – Sandhurst- 2 ideas. Instead of cash for food, hand out tokens. Instead of one big shelter have multiple smaller shelters nearby. Must be near where they work. One for recyclers and one for construction workers. One for gardeners. Could function in the community and become part of community and of value to the community.

Ryan Noble from Bryanston – on 19 and 26 September JMPD burnt all the belongings of people at spruit park. Is this a solution  to the problem?

MW- personally against it but not sure what the answer is 

Mary Gillett-de Klerk from Josh- trying to find sustainable solutions to address a very complex problem and based on global best practice. Trying to find a shelter venue nearby where the homeless are found. In CT they manage to get 1000 beds per night. All we have is Rosebank. Want people to work with Josh to support this. Everyone's attitude is "not in my back yard".

Chris Thomas  CPF chair. Since GL park closed we have already seen a spike of crimes. There is a criminal element of the vagrants and the recyclers doing the cherry picking and dumping rest on the spruit. Want to thank the mayoral committee for getting involved so quickly

John du Plessis - Paul's hof- we have same problems. Need a holistic solution. We need to link things together. Need to only employ people who have documents 

Jason Thom- resident in Stafford avenue- Been working on a possible solution for fencing an area along William Nicol opposite PicknPay , Willow-wild and the Total garage up to the wall of Rosehaven. He has managed to raise half of the funds but still need more funds. Approval process needs buy in from community.

MW asked for a show of hands of those in support of the proposal- majority in support.

Someone from Bryanston- upset about burning homeless shelters.  Problem is complex and deeply systemic and as a society we must take responsibility

Louis Moll from Bryanfern - can you make a living from recycling?

MW- yes you can. 

Jessica from Willow-Wild - what about park rangers? There an Eskom servitude running through the river and with fires and pylons this is a risk. Recently a fire nearly burnt down an old age home

Need to increase maintenance of the parks as overgrown areas act as a place for vagrants to live. 

Michaela  - Pastor of a church in Westdene-   We care for our people. How can we take hands with the  City?  We want to buy lands and how far can we go with the city and who can we work with?  What can we do to transform? No short terms solution. 

Anton- Innovation Revolution - involved with dealing with this issue overseas. Health and social development re what is needed for homeless shelters. We are from Rosebank but know there are architects like me trying to help. 

Roberta from Melville- when people live on the street there are people who want to be helped and those who don't. And what will happen with them? We need more shelters. 

Trevor - Beverly gardens. Worked with josh and churches in soup kitchens. Something  we need to understand is the homeless will always be with us. It is how we deal with them that is important. We need to deal with them with dignity and pride. But it is not just about giving. Also about them making a contribution. Any plan needs  their buy in. Must be ways for buy in and have great ideas and put them together in one pot. Need coordination and compassion. 

Mark Cox from Parkhurst-  Involved in an organization for homelessness.  Where are the homeless today? Unless they involved it won't work. Need buy in

MW- social development have been involved 

Kate Wardle- Parkmore. Very encouraged by the tone. A lot of discussion re a solution and there are real issues for all the wards. She has spent a lot of time with SAPS and JMPD and councillors. What area can we use to put a shelter? I suggested a sorting facility here and the church was unhappy.  Everywhere there are problems. Park is a wetland. Any suggestions for appropriate areas?

Someone from Bordeaux south - shelters need show that they  will deliver what they say  they will deliver. Will they not come with their own issues? There are credibility issues with shelters. If monetize things then people will start stealing to get into the shelters

Wilson- Hurlingham manor- we have started this thing now let's finish it. If I don't want to be registered which means I won't go to the area built for me, the people will remain a problem. If we make a plan let's make it once off let's finish it. If don't have papers that person must not be there and there must be a way to do it in a good way. 

Alan Dodd from Bordeaux-  All have same ideas. Waste recyclers can come to you and weigh stuff and buy. Make every suburb has own sorting area and then can say we will pay you at the shelter. 

Feedback from MMC Antony Still

Some people are compassionate and others are seen to be hard. Everyone wants to be compassionate. Different versions of compassion. Rather give money to solutions not money to the people living wild.  That is feeding the problem. 

Park rangers don't have policing powers

Seems we need more shelters. Work with people who know about these things. City must work with Mary and others like her. 

Private shelters don't have issues regarding people having papers. 

Spruit is the longest urban green lung in the world. It needs to have such a status and a tourist attraction to JHB.  If in better condition it could be an iconic thing. That's where we need to get to. 

MW- meeting closure and thanks to all participants.

 

 

Important Contacts

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