Cape Town homeless relocated during World Cup

The relocation camp known as Blikkiesdorp will house relocated homeless people from Cape Town city centre during the World Cup. Photo (c) Wiki-user Frombelow used under a Creative Commons 3.0 License


By Miko Schneider
The City of Cape Town’s latest housing initiative is to relocate street children and homeless people 30 km away from the city centre. Critics call the plan a ‘clean-up operation’ for the World Cup, while the municipal government defends it as a humane programme that happens to coincide with the tournament.

Their eyes are deep brown, wide and imploring. Their clothes are ragged and dirty. Their bodies are thin and bony and their feet are bare. On Long Street, the busiest strip in Cape Town, while locals catch a bite to eat during their lunch break or tourists cruise the clubs on a night out, they follow like strays, begging for “50 cents” or “money for food ma’am”. 

To see street children with absolutely nothing left to lose, not even their dignity, is absolutely heart breaking; yet it is a reality that many South Africans have come to live with every day. They also have to live with the fear of street crime, including pick pocketing, mugging, smash-and-grabs at traffic lights, and other crimes of desperation that are committed by these people on a regular basis.

These lost children are a result of a number of social factors: parental neglect; losing family to HIV/AIDS; drug addiction; gang membership; abject poverty; and more often a combination of these factors. It will take much investment by the government into housing, healthcare, education and skills generation for street-people and the homeless to see the quality of life they deserve.

Voluntary relocation programme or World Cup ‘clean-up operation’?
The City of Cape Town’s latest housing initiative is to relocate street children and homeless people from the city centre to the Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area, better known as Blikkiesdorp (‘block town’), 30km from the central business district.

Critics are calling the plan a ‘clean-up operation’ for the World Cup, while the municipal government defends it as a voluntary and humane relocation programme that happens to coincide with the tournament.

The "2010 Street People Readiness Plan" is set to run from May-July 2010, but the details will only be made public in the coming weeks. City officials claim street children and homeless people will be ‘treated with respect and dignity’ during the relocation. Speaking to the Cape Times, city councilor J.P. Smith explained that the City of Cape Town had set aside housing in the temporary relocation area for 160 people, and that all those who will be moved there have volunteered to do so after ‘three years of counseling’.

Blikkiesdorp, one of 223 informal settlements in the wider Cape Town area, consists of 1,300 3m x 6m corrugated zinc block-shaped structures, fenced in by barbed wire. According to the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign’s website, ‘Police and Apartheid era riot vehicles are stationed (permanently) at the only entrance…’

In an article for the Mail & Guardian, city spokesperson Kylie Hatton claims that Blikkiesdorp is an ‘emergency area in terms of a national housing programme for people in emergency living conditions’. She also claims that is favourably comparable to other settlements in terms of access to services and nearby clinics, as well as ‘shelter, environment and density’.

However, previous residents have described it as a ‘dumping ground’ and complained that it is unsafe, dirty and drug-ridden. Incidents of xenophobic tension have plagued the settlement in the past, and healthcare volunteers and food resources are reported to be lacking.

Many South Africans, homeless and homeowners alike, are waiting to see whether the "2010 Street People Readiness Plan" will offer street people more than a temporary solution to their problems - at least one that will last longer than the duration of the 2010 World Cup.

  • Tine ., Belgium, 11.06.2010 10:23:
    As a student social cultural work I did an internship in Durban, for four months before the World Cup, I saw the country working on the image they want to convey to the rest of the world.In a positively and in a poignant way.

    As a social worker, I often came am in contact with street children. From conversations with them I know that they are special for the world cup be removed from the streets. The police picked them up in a violent way at night with the help of dogs. They are dropped far from the center so they will need at least one month to return to the city ...

    The rights of children is much discussed here and it is very difficult to do something about it.
  • Gabriela Eibenberger, Cape Town, 08.06.2010 10:17:
    I am non South living in Cape Town for about 10 years and involved as volunteer.
    The article above is heart rendering but shows little insight to the hard reality of the problem. In matter of fact it contributes to children staying on the streets by targeting these people who give., Since I am living here I know organisations within the city who specify with street kids. They have become more professional over the years and getting more funding also from the city. The policy was ,is a 3step program, the kids voluntary getting used to a regular life off the streets.A lot has changed to the better within the years.The fact is that most of the children are being used by organised gangsters.I am particulary angry at woman, using toddlers (rented!!) to beg,they grow up on the motorised intersections and being send to the cars. Goverment is giving (a disputed)child grant and advocates pre school educaton and also poor can access it. The problem is rather poverty of the mind of many grown ups. Sa has come a long way and CS is active and watching also the CT.I hope they are implementing the law where kids are used=abused for begging immediatly!! For the past years the social workers could do very little to stop this to protect the children. file:///Users/admin/Desktop/ Cape may remove 'rent-a-kids' used to beg.webarchive
  • The Rainbow Collective, London, 24.05.2010 10:06:
    the south African government started to lay the seeds for this mass clean up in 2007 in Cape Town. We were filming a documentary with street children when we heard that the street children were protesting a new bi-law which was set during the apartheid era and they dug it out to bring it in so that they could clean the streets of the street kids and the homeless so that it looks nice and clean for the world cup 2010

    Watch the video here and pass it around please!! com/watch?v=iFozuSZV jJY
  • Dom Roadknight, Hertford, UK, 25.04.2010 09:14:
    So it seems to be a crime now in South Africa to be homeless….. by ‘arresting’ them and imprisoning them in this concentration camps.

    Surely this can’t be deemed right in the eyes of the world? Those tin shacks might be ok for now in the winter sun but they will be like ovens in the summer heat later on in the year! That is proof in it’s own that this is a blatant temporary measure just for the World Cup – just because it sounds right in their head…. doesn’t mean it sounds right to the world.

    Welcome to the real South Africa people…. where the government only thinks for themselves and not the people!
  • Dennis Cook, Cape Town, 29.03.2010 08:59:
    This article and the plight of the children may create a negative perception for visitors to South Africa during the World Cup 2010. The city of Cape Town has been attempting for several years to try and find lasting solutions to the problem of street children. This initiative is not just about clearing the streets for the safety of tourists or for creating an appearance of order. It is part of a much wider initiative to improve the future for these children.

* required field

What is three plus seven?

Guidelines for posting
Play the Game promotes an open debate on sport and sports politics and we strongly encourage everyone to participate in the discussions on But please follow these simple guidelines when you write a post:

  1. Please be respectful - even if you disagree strongly with certain viewpoints. Slanderous or profane remarks will not be posted.
  2. Please keep to the subject. Spam or solicitations of any kind will not be posted.

Use of cookies

The website uses cookies to provide a user-friendly and relevant website. Cookies provide information about how the website is being used or support special functions such as Twitter feeds. 

By continuing to use this site, you consent to the use of cookies. You can find out more about our use of cookies and personal data in our privacy policy.