Marquee for Wingfield

New home for about 650 refugees at Wingfield military base. Picture: KAREN WATKINS

A marquee has been erected on a portion of the Wingfield Military Base in Goodwood to accommodate refugees during the national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

The space was allocated to house the refugees, who are currently living on the pavement of Albertus Street in the Cape Town CBD, despite protests by members of the Goodwood Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (GRRA) and Kensington, Factreton Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (KFRRA). 

The marquee is located on Voortrekker Road, across from Maitland Cemetery. 

The refugees have been in the middle of a stand-off between the communities, the City of Cape Town and the national government over plans to relocate them there. 

According to mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, infrastructure for water, sanitation and electricity is in place and the ground was levelled on Thursday April 2. 

Mr Smith said refugees escorted from the Methodist Church on Greenmarket Square were taken to the shelter set-up at Paint City in Bellville by mistake and may have to be moved to Wingfield. 

GRRA chairperson Faizel Petersen said the ratepayers’ associations are disappointed with the mixed messages from local and national government about who will be moved onto the Wingfield site. He said they attended a meeting with Mayor Dan Plato at the weekend where he assured them Wingfield would take the homeless from Goodwood, Kensington, Maitland and Milnerton. He also said the remaining refugees would be moved to Paint City, said Mr Petersen.

“There are too many unanswered questions. We know for sure that the communities of Goodwood, Kensington, Factreton and surrounding areas will be the losers. We’ll sit with the mess left behind by these people making decisions for us all like we have no value, no rights and no say,”  said Mr Petersen.

KFRRA chairperson Leslie John Swartz said: “The association is deeply concerned for the health of the community of Kensington and Factreton and the Methodist Church refugees, especially during the national lockdown. This relocation will add to an already burdened and frustrated group of people, and is a recipe for disaster.”

The refugees who spoke to Northern News’ sister paper, the CapeTowner said they were grateful that they would no longer be exposed to coronavirus by living on the streets, even though they had heard from refugees who had already been moved to Bellville that the conditions there were not ideal as they did not comply with the social distancing regulations and there was limited fresh water.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health, Dr Zahid Badroodien said there are 6 000 homeless in Cape Town, with 2 000 located in shelters and 4 000 roaming the streets. 

He said Wingfield will take 650 refugees. 

Mr Smith said the seven sites across the city allocated to house people will cost R25 million a month to operate. Everyone entering the sites will be screened before entering. “If you escape and leave you are in breach of regulations,” said Mr Smith.