Carlos Mesquita writes that for the homeless there are unwritten rules on the mountain about where you can go and where you can sleep. File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Carlos Mesquita writes that for the homeless there are unwritten rules on the mountain about where you can go and where you can sleep. File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

We have unwritten rules for the homeless staying on Table Mountain

By Carlos Mesquita Time of article published May 5, 2021

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This week, my emotions have been so up and down that it has taken its toll on me.

One of the defining moments was sad and uplifting at the same time. It involved a monument of a man in homelessness who traded his skarrel wares in Buitenkant Street opposite the old Robbie Nurock Day Hospital for years. He used to say he was born "into the streets”.

His mom had been homeless and imprisoned when she gave birth to him. That was the only life he had known.

Last week, after a lengthy battle with TB that had visibly weakened him over the past year, his journey on the streets and its prisons was over. He was ready for his next and brand-new journey God intended for him.

Late last week, I finally walked past "Naughty's Corner", as it was known by many, homeless and homed. Although walking from town to our house usually necessitates going past the corner, I avoided it as I was scared of my emotional reaction to the emptiness that would greet me.

How wonderful was the surprise when I almost felt the need to greet him! His neighbours and friends had beautifully remembered him and Naughty's Corner was still his.

Thank you to those who live in that often criticised and negatively portrayed area claimed by homeless people, some of whom have lived and traded there for more than 15 years. You make me proud to know you all.

Then it was onto the story that had grabbed the headlines this month – the young foreign homeless man who “started that fire”.

I grew tired of being asked my opinion but I was confident that he wasn’t guilty of starting that inferno and, yes, at the time of his arrest he was probably trying to cook something as he was caught on the right side of the mountain for that, at the spot where the foreigners live.

There are unwritten rules on the mountain about where you can go and where you can sleep. These are agreed upon by the four major groups. These are the rastas, the local African guys and ZCC, the foreigners and the Capies (coloured led but includes all races).

Where the fire started would be a no-go zone for him. I am sure he was not responsible for starting the destructive fire that he has been arrested and charged for. In order to prevent him from going through the hell that I and every other homeless person has gone through after being arrested for no good reason, and then because of having no physical address, being remanded in custody for between three and six months, to then be told, “The case against you has been withdrawn,” I offered to provide Frederick with accommodation at our house for the duration of his trial.

On Tuesday last week, it was back to court, with affidavit in hand, to try to get Frederick out on bail.

After four long hours of deliberations between the prosecutor, the investigators and lawyers, the arson charge was dropped because there was no evidence he had started the fire.

The fire he was arrested for starting was one that Frederick and other mountain guys make to cook their food. It was contained and had nothing to do with the big fire; and was not even lit at the time the big fire started. He was granted R500 bail and we brought him to his new home.

And that was just the start of my week.

* Carlos Mesquita and a handful of others formed HAC (the Homeless Action Committee) that lobbies for the rights of the homeless. He also manages Our House in Oranjezicht, which is powered by the Community Chest.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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