26th October 2016
Rosebank Union Church
Summary by BRCF resident and volunteer Matt Shelley
A meeting was held at the Rosebank Union Church on Wednesday 26th October at 6pm to discuss the issue of displaced persons, particularly in our Parks and riverine areas. The meeting was organised by the council with three Ward Councillors present, the head of Social development and the Councillor who heads up the Infrastructure, Services and Environment portfolio in the mayor’s office. Members of City Parks, JMPD and SAPS were also present.
The meeting was very well attended with people from many suburbs covering a large area including Bryanston, Delta Park, Linden, Riverclub, Hurlingham, Randburg, Rivonia, Parkmore, Sandown, Willowild and others. There were presentations from each of the Councillors and the head of social development. This was followed by questions and comments from the community.
Several themes were raised in the presentations and discussions:
- Demographics and dynamics
- Most displaced people are Lesotho citizens.
- Many do not have papers. Many do not want to be documented.
- There is some evidence that low wages paid by some contractors (I would say sub-contractors) means lack of money for housing or taxis
- A group are also involved in recycling which adds to the mess when they sort their collections before cashing in their recycling. These guys also stay and sleep in our areas to guard their haul.
- Recyclers tend to cherry pick so this affects other recycling efforts.
- Impact on residents and the general problem of homelessness, poverty and vagrancy.
- Residents have a right to keep their open space in good condition AND we need to also find a way of taking care of the displaced people in the best way we can
- Language – Displaced persons recommended – rather than vagrants etc
- Any action needs to be taken with respect and care (e.g. not as reported a case of officials burning clothes and possessions and even ID papers)
- Alternative social responses need to be explored and acted upon
- Consideration of neighbouring suburbs – we need to work together were we can
- Not in my back yard
- Tendency to drive the problem elsewhere e.g. Parkmore fencing off areas and driving people off has created more of a problem in Sandton Field and Study and elsewhere along the river – indicative of a ‘beggar thy neighbour’ attitude. There is a tension between ‘drive them elsewhere’ or do nothing. Neither are acceptable.
The presenters and some residents suggested and discussed several ways of managing this issue:
- Shelters – Council Social Development can offer places for homeless people with identity documents. There are other organisations (like JOSH) who provide housing as part of a social entrepreneurship initiative. People without papers may have more luck at these shelters
- Recycling depots for informal recyclers – contained, scales to weigh collections, neater, security for trolleys so operators can go and sleep elsewhere
- need to find suitable locations, find funding, design, need to address Not-in-my-back-yard attitude (possibly only allow residents to remove vagrants if they are part of offering a solution)
- May encourage more vagrants – ‘honey pot’
- Vagrants do not want papers (should offer a simple choice – papers or be ejected/ deported)
- Community led initiatives
- Continued monitoring, raids, evictions in liaison with SAPS and City Parks, working with CAP or security providers
- Pressure on government to enforce bylaws
- Make life uncomfortable for those who still use our open space to sleep rough
- Community awareness of employing low cost labour
- Community projects with security companies to raid building sites and check for low paid vulnerable workers (goes with no paper issue)
- Clean up and maintain the open space as used by community – failure to do this could lead to loss of open space in the long term
- Combine boundary management, CCTV initiatives, limited fencing to coral traffic with general crime and community intelligence
- Find locations for council projects mentioned above
All of these themes highlight the complexity of the issue and the need for dedicated and creative problem solving, dilemma resolving and proactive action. Several people at the meeting said this problem will only get worse and we need to maintain of efforts over the long term. We also need to work together to find a co-ordinated response across agencies, suburbs and service providers. There seemed to be a real willingness to engage with the community and ask for the community’s support and input in a sustainable solution to this problem. Our Councillors are offering a proactive and participative approach to working together to manage this issue for the long term. I am very impressed with their openness and commitment.
Councillor Vincent Earp Ward 103, email@example.com
Councillor Martin Williams Ward 90, firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor David Potter, Ward 102, email@example.com
Councillor (Dr) Mpho Phalatse, MMC Health Social Development, Mphop@joburg.org.za
MMC Infrastructure and Parks
Councillor Anthony Still, MMC for infrastructure, Services and Environment, firstname.lastname@example.org.