'Working class' homeless people happy to move to new camp

01 April 2020 - 08:58 By Shonisani Tshikalange
31 March 2020: A man entertains himself doing backflips at the Lucas van den Berg Sports Grounds in Pretoria, where hundreds of homeless people were moved overnight in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19, to assess the health and living conditions of those living there. The tents are sub-divided with 3 occupants per section.
31 March 2020: A man entertains himself doing backflips at the Lucas van den Berg Sports Grounds in Pretoria, where hundreds of homeless people were moved overnight in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19, to assess the health and living conditions of those living there. The tents are sub-divided with 3 occupants per section.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

With a sea of tents as a backdrop, onlookers cheer as they watch the “skins” and the “shirts” engage in a soccer match. This is no regular match though — just a group of homeless people trying to entertain themselves while in lockdown at a temporary campsite in Pretoria.

These homeless people, who were initially placed at the Caledonian temporary camp, were happy to have been moved to the Lukas van den Berg sports ground in Pretoria West on Monday.

TimesLIVE visited the temporary camp on Tuesday, which is now home to more than 300 people.

Freddy Manganatala, who is the team leader at the camp, said he was relieved to have been moved from the camp they were having to share with drug users.

Manganatala, who is originally from Mamelodi, said he requested that the “working class” be moved to another camp.

“We arrived yesterday, that side the place was getting full, it was getting overcrowded so we asked them to move those who are working and looking for jobs, now we are happy here,” he said.

“We have 354 people here with 49 tents and it's three people per tent but some have four.  We are only asking for masks and products to wash our hands. We would also like to know what is happening in the world because there is no communication or information that is coming to us as to what is happening in the country,” Manganatala said.

Antone de Lange said he keeps himself busy by reading old magazines while his neighbours entertain themselves by playing music and dancing. The 49-year-old, who uses crutches to walk because of a back problem, said he was living on the streets when he was told by police that there were shelters.

“We were told to go to the camps by the police and we ended up at Caledonian camp and it was bad. We were victims of robbery so they brought us here on Monday,” he said.

The 49-year-old shares his tent with his sister-in-law and a friend.

His sister-in-law is the only female at the camp.

31 March 2020: A homeless man is seen having a his wound looked at by a medical practitioner outside the Caledonian studium in Pretoria, where hundreds of homeless people were moved in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.
31 March 2020: A homeless man is seen having a his wound looked at by a medical practitioner outside the Caledonian studium in Pretoria, where hundreds of homeless people were moved in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

While others roam around and some play soccer, 30-year-old Reuben Mulenga keeps himself busy by reading the Bible.

A 32-year-old man who did not want to be named said he lives in fear because he was told - falsely - that the camp was a plan to kill all the homeless people.

“An official told us at the first camp that they want to put us in one place and execute us all. That is why some are not coming here. They said they want to kill us because they didn’t scan anyone or provide any hand sanitiser,” he said.

The man who said he was caught trying to buy dagga told TimesLIVE on Tuesday that most people were traumatised by the official’s words.

“We are going to start panicking,” he said.

Hendry Madala said he was kicked out by his landlord in Soshanguve because his rent was long overdue.

The 32-year-old, who is now unemployed, said all he is looking for is a job, so that he can get back on his feet.

31 March 2020: Tents have been set up to house hundreds of homeless people at Caledonian stadium in Pretoria, where hundreds of homeless people were moved in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19, to assess the health and living conditions of those living there. The tents are sub-divided with three occupants per section.
31 March 2020: Tents have been set up to house hundreds of homeless people at Caledonian stadium in Pretoria, where hundreds of homeless people were moved in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19, to assess the health and living conditions of those living there. The tents are sub-divided with three occupants per section.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

Maya Mukiwa, 30, said he appreciated that the government had given him shelter which his church had failed to do.

“Someone said to me that you and your brother can go and look for a job even when they know that there is a lockdown. That is how evil people are, that is why I am so appreciative,” he said.


X