Johannesburg – “Responsible” efforts to protect more than 100 vulnerable homeless people from the coronavirus in Ekurhuleni during the national lockdown have resulted in “sheer criminality” and damage to city property.
At the old Benoni Town Hall on Wednesday, which is an 84-year-old building, the city lamented the damage to its property after pipes and steel objects at the facility were stripped, allegedly by the 102 homeless people housed there.
Light bulbs had also been removed, with some of the residents at the town hall saying the powder from the bulbs was used as an ingredient for drugs.
“That powder makes people very high,” said a woman, who asked to remain anonymous.
Toilet pipes were also missing when The Star visited Benoni on Wednesday.
Phaladi Mmoko, a member of the mayoral committee responsible for community safety, said Ekurhuleni took a decision to house the homeless across its properties following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa of the national lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.
The lockdown is now in its 28th day of 35.
“We are now becoming the victims of our own decisions. We do not regret this decision because we are a responsible and caring government.
“The concern we would like to raise is that, as much we are helping our own people, these are the issues that come with that responsibility,” Mmoko said.
“This is nothing but sheer criminality, which needs to be dealt with harshly,” he charged.
Members of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department (EMPD), as well as other city officials, were also present to assess the extent of the damage before a proper quantification could be done.
“We have just made observations and assessments.
“A thorough assessment must still be done by our security and real estate departments, which will make a determination of how much the damage is,” Mmoko said.
He added that the town hall only had two EMPD officers assigned when the first small group of people was placed there, but that the numbers grew exponentially when the city discovered more homeless people on the streets.
Mmoko said EMPD would be adding more security to the facility, as well as other buildings, after the completion of a risk analysis process.
By Khaya Koko