Could the lockdown enable desperate families to find their missing loved ones?
“I saw on TV that homeless people were being relocated to temporary shelters, so I came here to check,” said Francinah Matlala (63), who is looking for her nephew, Tebogo Joseph Sadick (32), who left his home in Mandela village, Hammanskraal, five years ago.
City Press came across Matlala at the Trans Oranje rugby field, where nearly 400 homeless people are being accommodated for the 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
“We call him Dabbie. He’s my younger brother’s son. We had a lead that he was in Marabastad but couldn’t find him,” she said.
“This is the first shelter I’m visiting. If I’m allowed to go to others, I will,” she said.
Tebogo Joseph Sadick ran away from home five years ago. Picture: Supplied
Sadick’s father, Aubrey Sadick, said his son was not a troublesome child.
“He used to be a security guard. He was well behaved but somewhere along the way, he started doing drugs and that’s when he left,” he told City Press.
Echoing similar sentiments, Matlala said the family was concerned about Sadick’s wellbeing.
“We’ve been looking for him for a very long time without success. Perhaps the lockdown will give us an opportunity to find him since homeless people will be housed together,” she said.
This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that, as part of the lockdown, “temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards will be identified for homeless people”.
Spokesperson for lead administrator at City of Tshwane, Omogolo Taunyane-Mnguni, said they were working to ensure that those who needed support had access to it.
There was a programme to try and reunite them with their families.
The problem is sometimes when we receive people we don’t really know if those are their real names.
They asked for basic details such as names, pictures and where they are originally from.
“We are also working with the department of social development so that those who are willing to undergo rehabilitation have access to those facilities,” she said.
She added that although the shelters screened and captured basic information about those they housed, there was still the challenge of verifying the information.
“Families may know that there’s a shelter close by and use the opportunity to look for a relative. When they arrive, they find officials on site and provide them with a name and a picture.
“The problem is sometimes when we receive people we don’t really know if those are their real names. The other problem is that sometimes a person may not look the same as they did five years ago when they left home.
“I can’t say it’s a perfect system. We have identified the holes and are working on plugging them,” she said.