Christmas came early this year for the homeless in Cape Town when volunteers organized a free lunch for them. Over 700 meals of roast chicken, potatoes, pasta and salad were served.
Many of the recipients of the lunch were migrants who came to South Africa looking for work and opportunities but found themselves on the street with no exit plan.
According to census data, South Africa has an estimated 1.7 million foreigners living within its borders, most of them from countries like Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.
I left Mozambique to come to Cape Town because of jobs and I was working the very first time I came here because I wanted to work doing a catering job, I wanted to do hotel management and work at the big restaurants.
“I left Mozambique to come to Cape Town because of jobs and I was working the very first time I came here because I wanted to work doing a catering job, I wanted to do hotel management and work at the big restaurants, I had that dream, I started at a few restaurants and then I ended up doing drugs,” said Reuben Mendez, a homeless man living in Cape Town.
It is estimated that there are over 7000 homeless people living on the streets of Cape Town.
State authorities say they the 2000 beds available at night shelters in The Salvation Army and The Haven are far from enough.
“There was a figure of seven and a half (thousand) homeless people, and then to make matters worse there are only about two thousand beds for them to sleep on so you can imagine we have about five thousand that literally sleep on the streets,” explained Doppio Zero restaurant owner.
Although it is one of the continent’s economic power houses, South Africa is grappling
with high unemployment, poor public services and crime.
“When we wake up in the morning, we have to pack our clothes and blankets and
then we hide them in the drains, it’s like we are stealing from each other you
understand,” explained a homeless mother, Nonzami Ndiza.
Immigrants have in the past been targeted in violent xenophobic attacks intended to force them out of the country.
In October, South Africa cut it’s GDP growth forecast by half to 0.5% due to contractions in agriculture, mining and manufacturing as well as perceptions of elevated political risk.