Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato File photo: Ayanda Ndamane / African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato File photo: Ayanda Ndamane / African News Agency (ANA)

Urgent court bid to declare Plato, JP Smith in contempt of court over the homeless

By Dominic Adriaanse Time of article published Sep 23, 2019

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Cape Town – City safety bigwigs, as well as Mayor Dan Plato, may face suspended jail time for allegedly continuing to fine homeless people and confiscate their possessions.

This despite an agreement that they would not enforce or further prosecute fines and summonses until November, pending an interdict application.

On Friday, seven homeless people launched an urgent application in the Western Cape High Court charging Plato, Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith and executive director of safety and security Richard Bosman with being in contempt of court for allegedly allowing the confiscation of the homeless people’s possessions to continue.

The legal action began last month when groups of homeless people hauled the City to court to seek an urgent interdict to force it to drop fines issued against them and to prevent new

ones.

This after the City metro police’s displaced persons unit had issued 199 fines to the homeless for contravening a by-law, which makes it unlawful to “obstruct pedestrian traffic on sidewalks”.

Following that, the City on September 5 undertook to desist and refrain from enforcing or further prosecuting fines and summonses until the interdict application was heard in November.

However the homeless, including Carin Gelderblom, one of the original applicants, have now accused the City of not sticking to its word.

The applicants seek an order which includes a 30-day prison sentence for Plato, Smith and Bosman, suspended until a decision on the interdict is made, and on condition that the City comply with the order.

The group’s lawyer Lucien Lewin, of Dingley Marshall Inc, said the City was alleged to have continued its conduct of interfering with and confiscating the property of homeless people in Cape Town, therefore being in violation of their own undertakings.

In her affidavit, Gelderblom said she thought she had nothing to fear a few days ago as she believed the City’s officials would not “violate the order”.

“On September 10, in De Waal Park in the City Bowl (where I was staying at the time), I was approached by members of the Green Point and Oranjekloof City Improvement District (GP/OK CID), who were accompanied by a City official. 

"Presumably acting on the authority of the City. Without much warning, GP/OK CID members and the City official started confiscating the cardboard I used to sleep on at night,” she stated.

Gelderblom said the cardboard was all she had left to protect herself from the elements after her sleeping bag was confiscated the previous week.

After arguing with the officials, Gelderblom said she informed them of the high court order, but they ignored

her.

She goes on to say that on September

18 she and others were taking

refuge from the rain at St George’s

Cathedral when the City’s Central

City Improvement District (CCID)

“forced” them to move into the rain. 

She said that one of the officials

said “it was not his business” when

she informed him of the court order. 

“In the event that this court

does not order compliance with the

order and commit the respondents

to imprisonment on the basis set

out on the motion of notice, the

respondents demonstrated through

their conduct that they have no

respect or regard for the law or orders

of court.

"And that such disrespect

will result in considerable injury

being suffered by the applicants

and homeless people living in Cape

Town,” Gelderblom said. 

The urgent application is set

down for Thursday. 

Plato’s office, Smith and Bosman

were approached for comment on

the matter, and acting executive

director for safety and security chief

Wayne le Roux responded, saying:

“The City notes the application and

we are looking into it.” 

Lewin said the City on Friday

filed its notice to oppose, and they

had until 5pm today to submit their

answering affidavits.

Cape Times

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