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EHF condemns ‘inhumane’ treatment of the homeless in Kempton Park

“Their meagre belongings were burned, raising significant concerns about the violation of basic human rights and the dignity of these vulnerable individuals.”

The Ekurhuleni Homeless Forum (EHF) secretary, Andrew Wessels, condemned the forced removal of homeless individuals who had erected makeshift shelters outside MES Kempton Park, on August 11.

Wessels said this was not only a violation of their human rights but a perpetuation of their already dire circumstances.

“Human rights are universal and inalienable. They apply to every individual regardless of their socio-economic status.

“Their meagre belongings were burned, raising significant concerns about the violation of basic human rights and the dignity of these vulnerable individuals,” he said.

The incident happened on August 11.

Wessels said the incident was reported by the MES Kempton Park manager, Rosina Ramonyai.

Ramonyai said to the Benoni City Times: “I was at the centre when it happened. I saw a smoke and upon enquiring, I saw it was coming from the pavement of the church in front the centre.

“I went outside and saw personnel from the SAPS, EMPD and Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens and Kempton Park Taxi Association burning the makeshift structures and belongings of the homeless people residing on the pavement.”

In photos and a video sent to the paper, possessions allegedly belonging to the homeless are seen on fire on the pavement outside the MES.

An EMPD vehicle is seen parked on the opposite side of the road, while people stood by watching as the homeless individuals tried to salvage what they could as the fire raged on.

In the video, a woman is heard saying to a man in isiZulu: “Bathi kuhlala abotsotsi lana” (They say criminals live here). But the man disputed this, saying: “These people are not criminals. I know them. I pass here every day.”

Wessels said this represented a breach of fundamental human rights principles, including the right to shelter, protection from inhumane and degrading treatment and right to non-discrimination.

“Homelessness is a complex and pervasive issue that demands compassion, support and solutions that prioritise the well-being of those experiencing extreme vulnerability.

“Forcibly removing homeless individuals from their shelters, especially in the absence of a compassionate alternative, is not only a violation of their human rights but a perpetuation of their already dire circumstances,” he said.

The homeless individuals had their makeshift shelters and belongings burnt.

The secretary pleaded with authorities, communities and civil organisations to work together to address homelessness with empathy and understanding.

He said solutions should focus on providing safe and dignified options, access to essential services and support for individuals struggling with homelessness.

He said: “Disrupting the lives of the homeless without offering meaningful assistance is not just ineffective but morally reprehensible.”

Wessels called on local authorities to “thoroughly investigate the incident, ensure there’s accountability and take immediate steps to prevent further such actions.”

The EMPD have been approached for comment on the matter.

Also Read: Forum adopts strategy to address homelessness in Ekurhuleni

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