The City’s amendments will allow for stricter law enforcement on homeless people in public areas. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
The City’s amendments will allow for stricter law enforcement on homeless people in public areas. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

'What does the CoCT expect will happen when all street people have a criminal record?'

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Jun 14, 2021

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Cape Town - Activist group and law centre, Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) is calling on city residents to push back and oppose stricter measures against the homeless.

This as the City published amendments to the by-law relating to streets, public places and the prevention of noise nuisances that is open for public comment. The amendments will allow for stricter law enforcement on homeless people in public areas.

According to data obtained from non-profit organisation U-turn, there are around 14 357 homeless people in the city, with just 2 473 beds at City shelters.

“These by-law amendments will exacerbate street people's vulnerability and put unnecessary pressure on an already strained criminal justice system. It will also further erode people's trust in city officials, compounding animosity between street people and the City and making it harder for street people to accept social assistance.

“The by-law amendments reflect an increased securitisation of street homelessness, which dangerously errs on an authoritarian response to a socio-economic problem,” said NU attorney, Jonty Cogger.

NU has called on the public to support the eleven homeless people represented by the group in the case against the constitutionality of two by-laws – Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances (2007) and the Integrated Waste Management By-law (2009) – in the Western Cape High Court and the Equality Court.

One applicant, Carin Rhoode Gelderbloem said: “These amendments will make our lives even worse. It means that we won’t even be able to walk down the street without the threat of being arrested. There simply aren’t enough shelter beds in Cape Town for someone to comply with this by-law.

“What does the City of Cape Town expect will happen when all street people have a criminal record or are in jail? How will this resolve the complexities of homelessness in Cape Town? This by-law amendment has been introduced to serve the rich.”

City’s safety and security portfolio committee chairperson Mzwakhe Nqavashe said a previous survey conducted by the City found there were 6 000 people living on the streets.

“The City does not hold the constitutional mandate over shelters, but goes above and beyond its municipal mandate, for example helping to expand shelters operating on municipal land, creating Safe Spaces in hotspot areas, and various other interventions outlined in the mayor’s open letter,” he said.

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