#BigFridayRead: Sea Point Good Samaritan undeterred
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CAPE TOWN - More than a year since Sea Point’s Good Samaritan Peter Wagenaar’s car went up in flames, and despite police having closed the case with no perpetrators apprehended, he is still not deterred from his goal to help the homeless.
In early May 2020, the Mini Cooper which Wagenaar used to feed homeless people during the national lockdown was set alight in Mouille Point.
Wagenaar said he had received complaints from residents who were opposed to him feeding the homeless, and it was believed that the burning of the car was a way to stop him.
“One gentleman put my person details, my car registration and my home address on social media to kind of deter me from feeding,” he said.
He recalls watching the car going up in flames through his bedroom window a week later.
“At first I heard what I thought was the car’s alarm going off at about 3.30am in the morning. I looked outside our window and I realised that the car was burning quite excessively at that stage.
“I woke my wife up not to sort of alarm her too much, and I told her what was going on and that she must not panic and she must notify the fire department. I went outside to ensure that the other cars parked next to ours were not also burning,” he said.
Peter and Lesley, both 55 years old, have been married for 33 years and moved from Paarl to Mouille Point four years ago.
“Obviously it was a shock but with all the harassment that preceded the event it didn’t greatly surprise me to be honest. Once the flames had been put out and everything, we went back inside and had a cup of coffee and we decided we are not going to let this deter us. Later on in the day and a few days later after the events accelerated a bit more, at one point I was feeling a little bit unnerved about this, thinking if they can do this, what can they do to me. I did question my safety,” Lesley said.
Police in May last year said that they were investigating a case of malicious damage to property.
However, police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi this week said the docket has been closed provisionally due to a lack of confirmed evidence, and once new evidence becomes available, the matter will be reopened.
Following the incident, which the Wagenaar’s now call a “mini-meltdown”, they bought the same model car, with a number plate that reads “Luvwins”.
“We got a replacement Mini after the insurance paid out and we put a new number plate to show that love always overcomes all,” he said.
The “fearless” Wagenaars have teamed up with Souper Troopers from The Humanity Hub assisting with the holistic needs of the homeless people.
The shell of the burnt-out mini was transformed into a mobile artwork by artist Alicia McFadzean, aka Cheeky Observer, that reflected the generosity of the Wagenaars, and their inspiring message that love always wins.
The muse for the artwork was Auntie TT, a refugee.
“When coming up with the idea for the visuals, we agreed that it would be great to incorporate a portrait of someone in the community who is also representative of this idea.
Peter and Lesley do a lot of work with Streetscapes, and through them we found Auntie TT, who was happy to be our muse and feature on the hood of the car. As someone who has also faced a lot of challenges, she is also a symbol for how love is a force that exists beyond the restrictions and conditions society often tries to make us conform to,” she said.
Sea Point ward councillor Nicola Jowell said incidents like the torching of the car do not solve problems or unite the community.
“There was general outrage from the community with regard to the incident which was deplorable. There can never be any justification for violence of any nature or encouraging violence."
"We have brought together many of the role-players in the area to work together to continue to look at solutions, interventions, best practice. This is generating a list of perceived opportunities and challenges in addressing the issues around homelessness which we are collating and will be taking to all spheres of government. (We) hope to also include the private sector and to continue to work with NGOs across the board,” she said.