Let’s just park the shock and anger for a moment and focus on the sheer stupidity of this idea first.
The City of Cape Town has reportedly issued 199 fines in three months for the contravention of by-laws relating to streets, public spaces and noise nuisances.
The displaced persons unit apparently received 3 051 complaints from the public about “anti-social behaviour by street people”.
So, those who make a fire in a public place can be fined up to R1500.
Obstructing pedestrians on a pavement can result in a fine of R300, as well as sleeping in a stationary car in a public place.
Small-scale littering or dumping attracts a penalty of up to R500.
Now, agreed, some of these transgressions need to be policed, but where will homeless people find the money to pay the fines?
These are literally the poorest of the poor in society.
Most of them live on the street precisely because they don’t have money.
Imagine, R1500 for making a fire... on an ice-cold winter night. Hell, that’s more than a Sassa grant.
And if offenders fail to pay a fine, to which fixed address would the City post the summons?
Honestly, does the City actually expect to collect this money?
Will they accept bags of small change and donkies? How about bottles, plastics and scrap metal?
It may sound like a joke, but it’s a serious problem for an unemployed outjie who doesn’t know where his next R300 is going to come from.
It really is the most impractical and ineffective measure to police street people.
City safety chief JP Smith points out that this isn’t City or DA policy, but national legislation, written in 2007.
“When it was drafted, we compared it with legislation in other municipalities and purposefully made our by-laws more humane and more considerate than those in other major metropolitan areas,” he says.
“The issuing of fines in relation to this specific by-law is not new either. Furthermore, the fines are set by the Department of Justice, and not the City.”
OK, fair enough.
But then clearly, these by-laws need to be changed, not enforced.
The ANC was quick to accuse the DA of being anti-poor and “criminalising the homeless”.
“We demand that the City stops this cruel, inhumane enforcement of its by-laws immediately, as well as showing more compassion by making more shelters available to the homeless,” said ANC Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs.
Look, the DA does have a terrible track record when it comes to its treatment of street people.
It started 10 years ago under then-mayor Helen Zille, who swept up all the homeless and evicted and dumped them in Blikkiesdorp like human trash.
To clean up the city for the 2010 World Cup mos.
And it’s happened again in Wolwerivier.
In the City’s defence, they have invested more in arme mense of late.
There’s the “safe space” opened in 2018 that houses over 200 street people who are receiving support aimed at getting them off the streets.
There’s also an annual winter readiness programme, which made R699 000 available to provide aid in the form of blankets, mattresses, food and toiletries to NGOs.
JP confidently declares “there is no person on the street at the moment who has not been offered accommodation”.
“Every person has been spoken to by a reintegration worker.”
But over 80% of people on the street refused assistance, he said, adding that people do not want to be in shelters.