The City of Tshwane carried the burden of accommodating the refugees after they converged on the offices of the United Nations, demanding that they be taken to other countries. In exercising its humanitarian duty the City created the shelter.
The City approached the SA National Defence Force to assist with army tents in order that the refugees could be accommodated. Some relief organisations, mainly from within the boundaries of the City itself, joined and started to provide assistance.
The entire operation meant that the resources of the City were poured into the shelter. These included human resources - social workers, disaster management personnel, Metro Police and many others. Physical resources included water, electricity, waste removal and many others.
It must be pointed out that the demand on the City's resources were enormous. For instance, each time when extra personnel were dedicated to the shelter it meant that such matters as overtime would have to be added. In addition to that the strain on the physical and psychological endurance of the staff was enormous. This was happening at the same time that the City was busy with two other shelters - the Stanza Bopape Hall in Mamelodi and the Malas shelter for those refugees who were displaced from Atteridgeville.
It must also be pointed out that all refugees at the Klerksroord shelter were not from Tshwane. They were from other parts of the country - Mpumalanga, Nelson Mandela Bay, and even Cape Town. Their constant demand has always been for the UN to repatriate them.
The other factor that needs to be taken into account is that there has always been an understanding that all shelters in the country were temporary and would have to be closed.
The City has also maintained, just like all other cities, that the refugees would have to be re-integrated back into their communities. True to this pledge we saw two weeks ago the re-integration of the refugees in Mamelodi and them being supplied with Starter Packs. This was done in collaboration with community based organisation.
It should be logical that because almost all refugees who have stayed back at Klerksoord are not from Tshwane they might have found it difficult to re-integrate. However, this should not be used against the City. The City did all that it could do.
What is worrying is that very little acknowledgement has been coming in the direction of the City for maintaining a site with minimal assistance from other sources other than residents and organisations from the City. Unlike other sites throughout the country the City maintained Klerksoord, Malas and Stanza Bopape on its own, safe for relief organisations from within the City itself.
With regards to the state of waste at the site it needs to be pointed out that the City distributes waste plastics and bins. Collection happens on a weekly basis. The Waste Management division continues to monitor the situation and ensures that the place does not deteriorate further.
The Waste Management personnel has however noted with concern that there is a tendency on the side of some of the tenants to spill waste around.
It is our appeal that in reporting about Klerksroord all should acknowledge the facts and history of the site. Due recognition should also go for the City's stretched efforts over six months to maintain what was arguably the most challenging of all sites in the country.
Console Tleane, Integrated Communication, Marketing and Information Services
Tel: 012 358 4755
Fax: 012 358 1310
Issued by: City of Tshwane