Right of Reply

City of Cape Town takes issue with reporting on Strandfontein

By Greg Wagner 5 May 2020

A homeless South African man shouts from behind a fenced off area in an attempt to speak to journalists during a media tour of the Strandfontein temporary homeless shelter site in Cape Town, South Africa, 09 April 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA)

The City of Cape Town argues here that manufactured outrage is getting airtime, and that the success of their rehabilitation efforts may turn out to be one of the positive outcomes of the Covid-19 disaster.

The article War of words overshadows plight of homeless at Strandfontein relocation camp (the latest of at least eight critical articles published by Daily Maverick about the Strandfontein emergency accommodation shelter over the past month), again parrots outdated misinformation that has already been corrected repeatedly.

Nothing more can be said about the site that hasn’t already been said, and you’re welcome to read any of the factual accounts published by Dan Plato, the Executive Mayor of Cape Town, or any of the several media releases that the City of Cape Town has issued in which we have repeatedly set the record straight and corrected the numerous false claims being made.

While Daily Maverick sees fit to repeat outdated and inaccurate criticisms, despite these repeatedly being corrected by the City of Cape Town, not once have they mentioned the Department of Defence’s positive feedback about the Strandfontein shelter. 

Despite an excellent service being provided to around 1,500 homeless persons at the site (which you can read about in the links above), and which of course faced a number of challenges during initial set up, the media has gleefully carried attack after attack by various political organisations and politically-aligned NGOs. In a time when the news is dominated by everything coronavirus, it is no surprise that manufactured outrage will continue to get airtime. 

Not a single homeless person has tested positive for Covid-19 at the temporary site, and every person has been screened at least twice upon entering the site, and again last week, with only a small handful having to receive further testing upon initial entry, all of which came back negative.

For the record, Suné Payne claimed in her article, while referring to an article published a few days prior to this one, that, “City of Cape Town mayoral spokesperson Greg Wagner said Daily Maverick would be provided with a response by midday on Wednesday, but by Thursday we had not yet received it.”  She omits to say that she submitted her request for comment after 17:00 on Tuesday. We responded that we would reply by midday the next day. But Daily Maverick had, by then, already published their story – without doing us the courtesy of waiting for our response. Seeing that they had already published the article, and allowed their readers to read the article without our comment, we were not going to bend over backwards to give comment that wouldn’t have been included anyway.  These issues morph into fundamental misrepresentations throughout these articles.

Lastly, I think it is important to mention that we have had extraordinary success in beginning rehabilitation processes at these shelter sites for homeless people, many of whom have serious addiction issues, and have lived on the streets, sometimes for decades. The success of our rehabilitation efforts may well turn out to be one of the positive outcomes of the Covid-19 disaster, including the rapidly erected temporary shelters that the media have done so much to denigrate. DM

Greg Wagner is Spokesperson for Dan Plato, Executive Mayor of Cape Town.

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