Cape law enforcement officers blamed for homeless man’s death
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Cape Town - The Human Rights Commission is investigating circumstances that led to the death of a homeless man, in the Kuils River area, on July 16.
Alphonso Meyer died two days after the City's law enforcement officers allegedly raided a group of homeless people, staying next to the Kuils River Post office, on July 12, and allegedly confiscated Miller’s belongings, including his blankets, plastic covers and cupboards.
Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee member Carlos Mesquita, who joined civil society organisations and other homeless people at the weekend, for a wreath laying ceremony, said social development had various interventions to remove Miller from the spot, but there was no instruction by their offices pertaining to the law enforcement operation.
“Although the City's policy states there has to be social development intervention and attendance when such interventions occur, according to the Department of Social Development, the intervention by law enforcement was not requested or attended by them. So law enforcement removed the man's belongings, including his blankets, leaving him with only the clothes he was wearing.
“He was apparently stressed by what had happened, had two epileptic fits that night, but he was, however, fine after those episodes. He had no blankets and slept with a sheet over himself and, two days later, he was found dead under that sheet,” he said.
Commissioner Chris Nissen said homeless people were generally treated like non-humans. He said there was a need to find a sustainable solution for homeless people as every city in the world had homeless people.
“The issue about homeless people is a dignity issue and for them to be respected. Other cities have devised sustainable and developmental plans to deal with the issue of homelessness in their countries and cities.
“You can't wish a homeless person away, you can't say they must go wherever they come from, as there are many reasons why people are homeless. It is, therefore, wrong for any law enforcement agency to harass them. If a homeless person commits a crime, it must be reported, and that person be arrested – but you can't harass them,” Nissen said.
City’s law enforcement Spokesperson Wayne Dyason said law enforcement officers were in the area on the date in question, but at no point did they remove Miller’s personal belongings.
Dyason said the officers engaged with him and noticed that he appeared unwell, called an ambulance and, when emergency personnel tried to take him to hospital, he refused to go and they left.