GroundUp stated, however, that its reporter was on site and he and other witnesses heard and/or saw shots being discharged at least twice.
In a statement reacting to the claim, Shenilla Mohamed, executive director of Amnesty International South Africa, said: “Amnesty International South Africa is alarmed at reports of the use of excessive force towards people who are already vulnerable, and we repeat our call, once again, that while it is urgent and important to ensure that people adhere to the lockdown, the police should not use excessive force against protesters.
“The use of excessive force is worrying. We are concerned about the government’s plans to ‘de-densify’ some informal settlements. Relocation can be very disruptive, and this at a time when social networks and community are key. We are concerned that ‘de-densification’ procedures could result in further incidents where excessive force is used, which would be devastating for the relocated communities as well as our society as a whole.
“Security forces must act within the law at all times and should adopt an educational approach, rather than using excessive force against the people, to sensitise anyone who is not complying with the rules of the lockdown, or who is being moved during ‘de-densification’.
“Every person must clearly understand why they are being moved, and this must be done sensitively with their specific needs in mind. No-one must be forcefully removed from their homes.
“Everyone is equal before the law, and should be treated as such, whether homeless, a refugee or a person living in poverty.”
Amnesty said the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, among other international standards, clearly provide that law enforcement officials may only use force if other means remain ineffective or have no promise of achieving the intended result.
When using force, law enforcement officials should exercise restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and to the legitimate objective to be achieved, said the organisation.
The City of Cape Town said in a statement the camp was a proactive measure to help the homeless. The Strandfontein sports complex “enabled us to move quickly as it has a large perimeter fence, existing infrastructure with water and electricity available, and is big enough to accommodate 2,000 homeless persons on one site, making the delivery of services for the homeless far more efficient”.
"“To ensure that our homeless community is well taken care of while at this facility, we are providing medical services, shelter, meals, ablution and shower facilities. When entering the site, our homeless community is screened by medical professionals and social workers so that we can respond appropriately to their medical and psychosocial needs,” the city said.